As you most certainly heard this week, the NFL will be adding a 17th regular season game to this coming season, and those to come. Now, this ultimately doesn’t have any impact on the Syracuse Orange football team. But... it got us thinking about a different way to handle ACC scheduling.
Since 2002, the NFL scheduling matrix has actually been pretty simple. With 32 teams, 16 games and four divisions per conference, everything’s worked out really symmetrically.
- Six games in your division (H&H)
- Four games against another division in your conference (2H, 2A rotating)
- Four games against another division in the opposite conference (2H, 2A rotating)
- Two games against teams in your conference that finished in same place in their division you did
Adding a 17th game could completely blow that up. Yet the NFL opted for a simpler solution: the above, plus a game against a team from the opposite conference that finished in the same place you did.
While this would never happen in the ACC because of a handful of cross-divisional rivalries that need to be contested each year (Miami/FSU, NCSU/State, Clemson/Georgia Tech), what if the conference used a similar approach to help promote more competitive balance within the league?
So the idea would be to maximize the number of teams you play in a four-year stretch, without getting rid of the current divisions (even if getting rid of the current divisions would be the superior option). Instead of locking in permanent rivals, you’d have one inter-divisional game rotate on a six-year period. And the other would rotate based on where you finished the previous year, to help promote greater competitive balance within the league.
Now since we didn’t have divisions last year, that may seem hard. But we can still just plug in 2020 records into the regular alignment. For any overlap between rotating opponent and standings-based opponents, we just move on to the next team.
In this hypothetical, we’ll say that Syracuse’s first rotating opponent is Virginia Tech (who they’re already playing in 2021 anyway). So the home and away splits in the ACC for the Orange would be:
- Home: Boston College, Duke, Clemson, Wake Forest
- Away: Florida State, Louisville, NC State, Virginia Tech
If the standings looked exactly the same — place-wise — in 2021, the following year’s ACC schedule could be this for SU:
- Home: Florida State, Louisville, NC State, Virginia
- Away: Boston College, Clemson, Duke, Wake Forest
The only potential hang-up is just having to play the same team repeatedly if you both finish last every year (or first or second, or whatever...). But we’re already playing the same team every year anyway with Pitt. And this at least adds some variety to the cross-divisional idea. Also, it would seem less likely that the same teams finish in the same place every year since they have the advantage/disadvantage of facing one another.
The competitive balance goes both ways in that you’re not leaving a “punishing” schedule completely up to chance for a rebuilding program. Yet, you’re also not just giving a great team a cakewalk accidentally.
Thoughts? Hate it? Love it? Would rather we just tossed divisions to make this easier? Share some of your own scheduling ideas in this vein or others below.