Ranking the ACC's Toughest Non-Conference College Football Schedules in 2019

Duke opens against Alabama and hosts Notre Dame in November

Scheduling continues to be a major talking point in the college football world. The conferences that have had teams left out of the College Football Playoff have been leagues with nine-game conference schedules. Of course, it helps that the SEC and ACC — the two conferences that play eight conference games — are led by Alabama and Clemson, two programs that would have made the four-team field over the past few years no matter what league they were in.

 

As things stand, Clemson remains a part of the Atlantic Coast Conference and that group plays eight conference games. Well, except this year when two ACC members play nine conference games, though only eight of those will count in the standings.

 

Here is from top to bottom the most difficult non-conference ACC schedules.

 

1. Duke

Aug. 31 vs. Alabama (Atlanta)

Sept. 7 vs. North Carolina A&T

Sept. 14 at Middle Tennessee

Nov. 9 vs. Notre Dame

 

By opening with Alabama and then facing Notre Dame in November, the Blue Devils will battle two of last season’s four playoff teams. Plus, the trip to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to play the Blue Raiders won't be easy.

 

2. Florida State

Aug. 31 vs. Boise State (Jacksonville, Fla.)

Sept. 7 vs. ULM

Nov. 16 vs. Alabama State

Nov. 30 at Florida

 

The Seminoles always have that season-ending clash with the Gators and this year it will be in the Swamp. But Florida State usually lines up another big non-conference game and this year it's the opener against Boise in nearby Jacksonville.

 

3. Clemson

Sept. 7 vs. Texas A&M

Sept. 21 vs. Charlotte

Nov. 2 vs. Wofford

Nov. 30 at South Carolina

 

For the fourth year in a row (and the 10th time in 12 years), Clemson double dips with SEC games. The Tigers go to Columbia this year while A&M comes to Death Valley after nearly knocking off Clemson in College Station last September.

 

4. Georgia Tech

Sept. 7 vs. South Florida

Sept. 14 vs. The Citadel

Sept. 28 at Temple

Nov. 30 vs. Georgia

 

Beyond the meaningful Coastal Division games and the annual crossover with Clemson, Geoff Collins will have to deal with this challenging slate in his first year leading the Yellow Jackets. There's always Georgia looming at the end, but Collins will go back to his old stomping grounds at Temple and face another tough AAC team in South Florida.

 

5. Pittsburgh

Sept. 7 vs. Ohio

Sept. 14 at Penn State

Sept. 21 vs. UCF

Sept. 28 vs. Delaware

 

The good news: Ohio replaces Notre Dame on this year's schedule. The bad news: Penn State and UCF remain. In 2019, the Panthers will go to Happy Valley for one last time and the Knights will come to Pittsburgh.

 

6. North Carolina

Aug. 31 vs. South Carolina (Charlotte, N.C.)

Sept. 13 at Wake Forest

Sept. 21 vs. Appalachian State

Nov. 23 vs. Mercer

 

There's no big, traditional power on the Tar Heels' schedule, but FCS opponent Mercer is shaping up as the only sure win. Appalachian State should be one of the country’s best Group of 5 teams even with a coaching change while the Gamecocks and the Demon Deacons, who Carolina plays in a conference non-conference game, will be favored over Mack Brown's team.

 

7. Louisville

Sept. 2 vs. Notre Dame

Sept. 7 vs. Eastern Kentucky

Sept. 14 vs. Western Kentucky (Nashville, Tenn.)

Nov. 30 at Kentucky

 

Scott Satterfield's Cardinals play three in-state teams and host Notre Dame in the season opener. The emergence of Kentucky has made this schedule much more problematic.

 

8. Boston College

Sept. 7 vs. Richmond

Sept. 13 vs. Kansas

Sept. 21 at Rutgers

Nov. 23 at Notre Dame

 

Technically, the Eagles have three Power 5 non-conference games, though Kansas and Rutgers barely qualify. The game in South Bend in the next-to-last week of the regular season could be very important to the Irish.

 

9. Miami

Aug. 24 vs. Florida (Orlando, Fla.)

Sept. 14 vs. Bethune-Cookman

Sept. 21 vs. Central Michigan

Nov. 23 at FIU

 

College football’s 150th season will open up with a big-time matchup between the Hurricanes and the Gators in Week Zero. Beyond that contest, there's not much on the Miami slate, though visiting former Canes head coach Butch Davis and FIU could be interesting.

 

10. Wake Forest

Aug. 30 vs. Utah State

Sept. 6 at Rice

Sept. 13 vs. North Carolina

Sept. 21 vs. Elon

 

The Demond Deacons play that non-conference game against Carolina and also go to Houston to battle Rice. But the most interesting game on this list is the opener against Utah State and dynamic quarterback Jordan Love.

 

11. Syracuse

Aug. 31 at Liberty

Sept. 7 at Maryland

Sept. 21 vs. Western Michigan

Sept. 28 vs. Holy Cross

 

Power 5 teams hardly ever open the season with two true road games, but that is exactly what the Orange will do this fall. Maryland should be improved under new head coach Mike Locksley and Western Michigan gave Syracuse trouble in last year's opener.

 

12. NC State

Aug. 31 vs. East Carolina

Sept. 7 vs. Western Carolina

Sept. 14 at West Virginia

Sept. 21 vs. Ball State

 

The Wolfpack's slate features two of the nation's bottom 20 FBS teams and an FCS opponent. There is a road game in Morgantown, but after losing their head and quarterback (among others), the Mountaineers will be re-tooling in 2019.

 

13. Virginia

Sept. 6 vs. William & Mary

Sept. 21 vs. Old Dominion

Sept. 28 at Notre Dame

Nov. 23 vs. Liberty

 

The Cavaliers have a trip to Notre Dame and three lay-ups on their schedule. It's nice that they will play teams from the Commonwealth, but none of those games should be competitive.

 

14. Virginia Tech

Sept. 7 vs. Old Dominion

Sept. 14 vs. Furman

Oct. 12 vs. Rhode Island

Nov. 2 at Notre Dame

 

Looks a lot like UVA’s non-conference schedule, doesn't it? The only difference is that ODU won't be sneaking up on the Hokies this year and Tech has two games against FCS competition.

 

— 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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