Ranking the ACC's Toughest College Football Schedules in 2019

BC's slate includes road games against Clemson, Notre Dame, Syracuse over 4 weeks

One theme of this offseason is how Clemson has an easy path to the College Football Playoff because the ACC will be weak in 2019. While no one knows for sure what will happen from September through December, there will be no mystery about the league's strength once the season is complete. Every league member will play at least one Power 5 opponent in non-conference action and 12 of the ACC's 14 teams will play at least one of these games away from home.

 

Plus, inside the conference, Miami, Florida State, and Virginia Tech should all be improved. Virginia is coming on. Syracuse is really coming on. And eight member institutions have to play Clemson. It should be an exciting and challenging year within the Atlantic Coast Conference.

 

Here is a schedule strength ranking for each ACC team.

 

1. Boston College

Non-Con: Richmond, Kansas, at Rutgers, at Notre Dame

Atlantic Home: Wake Forest, NC State, Florida State

Atlantic Road: at Louisville, at Clemson, at Syracuse

Crossover: Virginia Tech, at Pittsburgh

 

The Eagles do have the luxury of building up the win total with games against Richmond, Kansas, and Rutgers, though the game against the Scarlet Knights is on the road. But Boston College also has the pleasure of going to Clemson, Notre Dame, and Syracuse. And the Eagles get Virginia Tech right out of the gate. The five-game stretch from Oct. 19 to Nov. 23 of NC State, at Clemson, at Syracuse, Florida State, and at Notre Dame is just brutal.

 

2. Duke

Non-Con: vs. Alabama (Atlanta), North Carolina A&T, at Middle Tennessee, Notre Dame

Coastal Home: Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Miami

Coastal Road: at Virginia Tech, at Virginia, and at North Carolina

Crossover: Syracuse, at Wake Forest

 

Duke's schedule is very comparable to Boston College's. But where the Eagles go to Notre Dame, Syracuse, and Clemson, the Blue Devils get the Irish and the Orange at home and will play Alabama at a neutral site. The Virginia Tech game is on the road and Miami comes to Durham, so a case can be made for Duke having the toughest slate and their November run of Notre Dame, Syracuse, at Wake Forest, and Miami will be daunting.

 

3. Georgia Tech

Non-Con: South Florida, The Citadel, at Temple, Georgia

Coastal Home: North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech

Coastal Road: Duke, Miami, Virginia

Crossover: at Clemson, NC State

 

It's the way it is every year. Clemson is the Jackets' natural crossover rival and the season ends with Georgia. It just so happens that this year both of those teams are in everyone’s preseason top five. There's also a tricky game in week two against USF and Geoff Collins goes back to Temple on Sept. 28. In terms of the division, Miami and UVA will be difficult road tests.

 

4. Louisville

Non-Con: Notre Dame, Eastern Kentucky, vs. Western Kentucky (Nashville, Tenn.), at Kentucky

Atlantic Home: Boston College, Clemson, Syracuse

Atlantic Road: Florida State, Wake Forest, NC State

Crossover: Virginia, at Miami

 

Welcome to the ACC Scott Satterfield. You do know that we have this agreement with Notre Dame, right? You get them week one. You are also aware that you're on Clemson’s side of the league, correct? Oh, yeah, Kentucky's much better now and you get the in-state rivals on the road. Finally, your random crossover game is at Miami. Don’t forget to have fun in your first year in the league.

 

5. Florida State

Non-Con: vs. Boise State (Jacksonville, Fla.), ULM, Alabama State, at Florida

Atlantic Home: Louisville, NC State, Syracuse

Atlantic Road: Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College

Crossover: at Virginia, Miami

 

Like Georgia Tech, Florida State is stuck by circumstance. Clemson is in the division, Miami is the Seminoles' yearly crossover opponent, and there is the rivalry against the Gators. To top it off, FSU usually throws in another quality non-conference game and this year that is against Boise State in week one. The other crossover game, against Virginia in Charlottesville, won't be a picnic, either.

 

6. North Carolina

Non-Con: vs. South Carolina (Charlotte, N.C.), at Wake Forest, Appalachian State, Mercer

Coastal Home: Miami, Duke, Virginia

Coastal Road: Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh

Crossover: Clemson, at NC State

 

It was going to happen to one team and North Carolina drew the short straw: Clemson is the Heels' random crossover foe. What makes the UNC schedule so formidable isn't the one game against the Tigers, though, it is the relentlessness of the opponents. Until Mack Brown's squad sees FCS member Mercer on Nov. 23, they will have played all Power 5 teams except one... Appalachian State, a team that would be favored over a large number of power conference teams.

 

7. Pittsburgh

Non-Con: Ohio, at Penn State, UCF, Delaware

Coastal Home: Virginia, Miami, North Carolina

Coastal Road: Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech

Crossover: at Syracuse, Boston College

 

The Panthers swap out Ohio for Notre Dame in non-conference action so at least that portion of the schedule isn't crazy stupid like it was last year. But the Bobcats are projected to win the MAC East by Athlon Sports and going to Happy Valley and hosting UCF is no joke. The division sets up well as Miami and Virginia come to Heinz Field and Virginia Tech is the big road game. Making things a bit more difficult in the ACC is that the annual game against Syracuse will be played at the Dome.

 

8. Wake Forest

Non-Con: Utah State, at Rice, North Carolina, Elon

Atlantic Home: Louisville, Florida State, NC State

Atlantic Road: Boston College, Clemson, Syracuse

Crossover: at Virginia Tech, Duke

 

There's a road game at Rice, a visit from Jordan Love and Utah State, and that odd out of league game with UNC. But the non-conference schedule isn't incredibly difficult. The Demon Deacons do have to venture to Clemson and Syracuse along with going to Lane Stadium in a crossover game.

 

9. Syracuse

Non-Con: at Liberty, at Maryland, Western Michigan, Holy Cross

Atlantic Home: Clemson, Boston College, Wake Forest

Atlantic Road: NC State, Florida State, Louisville

Crossover: Pittsburgh, at Duke

 

The Cuse begins the season by playing two road games, including one against a dangerous Maryland team. Pittsburgh should take a step back this year and the Orange should be able to handle Duke in their other game against the Coastal. At FSU and NC State will be battles and the Dome will be rocking when Clemson comes in on Sept. 14.

 

10. Clemson

Non-Con: Texas A&M, Charlotte, Wofford, at South Carolina

Atlantic Home: Florida State, Boston College, Wake Forest

Atlantic Road: Syracuse, Louisville, NC State

Crossover: Georgia Tech, at North Carolina

 

The biggest scheduling advantage Clemson has in the ACC is that they don't have to face themselves. The Tigers do play two SEC foes in non-conference and will have to deal with Carrier Crazies early in the year. But the two crossover games should be harmless and getting FSU at home is helpful.

 

11. Miami

Non-Con: vs. Florida (Orlando, Fla.), Bethune-Cookman, Central Michigan, at FIU

Coastal Home: Virginia Tech, Virginia, Georgia Tech

Coastal Road: North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Duke

Crossover: at Florida State, Louisville

 

Miami kicks off the new season with a week zero tilt in Orlando against the Gators. But the Hurricanes catch some breaks with the remainder of the schedule. The will head to Tallahassee the first weekend in November, but they could have done worse than Louisville at home in the random crossover game. They also host their two biggest Coastal rivals in Virginia and Virginia Tech.

 

12. NC State

Non-Con: East Carolina, Western Carolina, at West Virginia, Ball State

Atlantic Home: Syracuse, Clemson, Louisville

Atlantic Road: Florida State, Boston College, Wake Forest

Crossover: at Georgia Tech, North Carolina

 

In theory, a game at West Virginia is always troubling. But this West Virginia team is undergoing a ton of changes and shouldn't be a problem for the Pack. The rest of the non-conference games are very tame and they get Clemson and Syracuse at home.

 

13. Virginia

Non-Con: William & Mary, Old Dominion, at Notre Dame, Liberty

Coastal Home: Duke, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech

Coastal Road: Pittsburgh, Miami, North Carolina

Crossover: Florida State, at Louisville

 

Trips to Notre Dame and Miami as well as the home game against Florida State are the highlights of what otherwise is a rather mundane schedule. The three non-conference games against Commonwealth opponents will result in wins, Louisville is rebuilding, and the Cavaliers host the archrival Hokies to close the regular season.

 

14. Virginia Tech

Non-Con: Old Dominion, Furman, Rhode Island, at Notre Dame

Coastal Home: Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh

Coastal Road: Miami, Georgia Tech, Virginia

Crossover: at Boston College, Wake Forest

 

The three toughest games on the schedule (Miami, Notre Dame, and Virginia) are on the road. But the Hokies should win all seven of their home games and they will probably be favored in road contests at Boston College and Georgia Tech. Plus, Apple was still more than three years away from unveiling the iPhone the last time the Hokies lost to Virginia.

 

— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

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