Syracuse's move to the ACC brings with it plenty of changes, but one of the most important ones may be how it affects the team's non-conference schedule. Gone will be the days of finding five non-league opponents (oh, Big East) and failing to have a single top 25 squad on the slate. Once we're ACC-bound, in any given year, we could potentially have four or five preseason top-25 teams scheduled. This is great, since it also means we don't have to be nearly as aggressive in our scheduling anymore. Trips down to Tallahassee and Death Valley will happen every other year, not to mention games against Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Plus, we'll face Notre Dame at least once every three (which is more than we do now), too.
Speaking of Notre Dame, their presence on our future schedule presents both a problem and a solution. We'd originally had the Irish on our non-conference slate from 2014-2017, with both home games being played in New Jersey. It's likely those arrangements will no longer be upheld. So while it's disappointing that ND's deal with the ACC removes some opportunities, it also presents others. If you missed the news Wednesday, the ACC announced it will stay at eight conference games per year, meaning we have a free slot to work with now. Part of this move was due to Notre Dame, since their addition locked schools like Georgia Tech, Florida State and Clemson -- who already have set non-conference rivals -- into 11 games against major conference foes. For us, it means we now have four non-ACC games to schedule each year. So which teams should we be targeting?
We'll start with who's already signed on to play against us. Penn State in on the books in 2013, 2020 and 2021, while Northwestern is already on both our 2013 and 2019 slates. Tulane makes good on our home-and-home arrangement in 2013, after last year's trip down to New Orleans, and Navy's lined up for 2017. So that's three teams already locked in for next year. We'll assume the fourth will be a FCS squad in the New York or New England area.
Beyond that, there are still a lot more opportunities on the schedule. We'll start out each season by assuming we'll want to play one school in one of the other "big five" conferences, one mid-major, and one FCS school. Every three years, that fourth slot will be filled by Notre Dame. In the other years, we'd have our pick of opponents, and may want to schedule based on how well we're projected to perform (please do this, Doc Gross). Another option for non-conference scheduling is a partnership between private institutions, as if we didn't have enough of those in the ACC already. Additionally, it would be nice to rotate off Penn State and West Virginia in the non-conference, just to keep some of our history with those teams intact. A glance at what our schedule could look like going forward:
2013: Penn State, at Northwestern, Tulane, FCS school
2014: Notre Dame, at Vanderbilt, Akron, FCS school
2015: Vanderbilt, at West Virginia, Akron, FCS school
2016: at Vanderbilt, West Virginia, Buffalo, FCS school
2017: at Notre Dame, at Navy, Buffalo, FCS school
2018: at Stanford, at West Virginia, Miami (OH), FCS school
2019: Stanford, at Northwestern, Miami (OH), FCS school
2020: at Penn State, Notre Dame, Old Dominion, FCS school
The only matchups set in stone are the ones called out a few paragraphs back, so obviously there's plenty of guesswork here. But I think this presents a much smarter way to schedule aggressively, while still giving us a solid shot to win six games. In many of these seasons, we'd be setting ourselves up for at least two non-conference games on national television (possibly primetime), plus trips to new markets for SU (Bay Area and Nashville, in particular). We'd also get to maintain proximity to PSU and WVU, without putting ourselves at a disadvantage.
What do you think? Would a private school scheduling pact work out for us? And should we restart the battle for the Schwartzwalder trophy? Share your own thoughts in the comments.