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ACC Network Extra upgrades broadcast, but leaves league out of week 1 excitement

The long game works. But the short game? Maybe not.

NCAA Football: ACC Football Kickoff Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

As you probably noticed, this past weekend’s Syracuse Orange football game was on ACC Network Extra — basically the WatchESPN of years’ past, but with a higher-quality broadcast than what we remember from the old ACC Network games.

The mostly standard-definition games that ended up on a mix of RSNs and WatchESPN were always frustrating to watch, completely bereft of knowledge about the Orange, and full of all the #BRANDS Syracuse fans knew nothing about. Though the quality was debatable, the fact that the games were available on television was key. Even for connected fans, being able to flip a channel to the broadcast was and still is preferred.

So forgive me for sounding old-fashioned when I was disappointed to see Syracuse, and other ACC teams as well, largely left out of this season’s opening weekend proceedings.

NCAA Football: Central Connecticut State at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Of the conference’s 14 games this weekend, HALF were only available on ACC Network Extra. Meanwhile, I could find any terrible Big Ten or SEC game on linear TV. There were countless lesser matchups on RSNs, too. No one was talking about the ACC games on Twitter because so few people were really watching the web-only broadcasts.

This theme won’t necessarily be confined to week one, either. Six more games are on ACC Network Extra this coming weekend, including Syracuse’s once again. The Orange are on ACC Network Extra for a third straight weekend after that.

This isn’t to just hammer the ACC, though. The plan was clear that we’d have a two-year ramp up to a linear ACC Network and then everything would launch in 2019. Assuming the channel gets significant pick-up from cable and satellite providers, that means we’ll be seeing just about every ACC team on TV (not just streaming) each week.

The long game toward a network was a smart one, and one that makes a lot of sense for the conference and ESPN to get its collective footing over the course of a few seasons. But the trade-off in the meantime is a departure from the RSNs and gravitating toward online-only football.

NCAA Football: College Game Day-Richmond at James Madison Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Even with fans gravitating toward streaming more, having your league left out of the greater college football experience (a collective I’m happy to join in every Saturday in the fall) can be a miscalculation. And in a season where your two best programs have some question marks, exposure could become a larger concern as the year wears on.

Perhaps I’m overreacting. But after a weekend where the biggest ACC plotlines involved injuries and some inauspicious starts for several teams, the more exposure the conference can give to its middle tier could be advantageous.

Here’s hoping we’re on (actual) TV more often than not starting in week four.