Now this wouldn’t be a merger or any sort of realignment-based shift for the strongest remaining conferences outside of the new 16-team SEC. But any sort of larger partnership between those leagues would represent a powerful voting bloc to stand up to the SEC in matters of playoff representation, media rights discussions, and other governance matters that more specifically affect the power conferences than college football as a whole.
So while it’s unlikely to put any more money in the ACC or Syracuse Orange’s pockets at this time, there’s a long game here that potentially provides more playoff access for the conference — so by default, more money for Syracuse, even if (when) they’re not the team that make the field as a result.
Governance adjustments could also benefit Syracuse if they trend toward avoiding creating overwhelming disadvantages for private schools or smaller schools. Or at least not favoring football powerhouses too much. While those three leagues have a variety of historically and/or recently strong teams (Ohio State, Clemson, Michigan, USC, Oregon, Florida State, Notre Dame), the overwhelming majority are not necessarily going along with changes that only benefit those flush with cash from a larger-scale focus on football. Northwestern, Syracuse, Duke, Wake Forest and numerous others could conceivably have an equal seat at the table to the bigger schools in this sort of alliance.
From a scheduling standpoint — which is where specifics are most scarce right now — this could also help the Orange out a bit, both in terms of the work required to compile appealing non-conference slates and overall difficulty.
A scheduling alliance could mean the 41 members collaborate to create appealing non-conference games that are financially lucrative and help avoid the SEC sucking all of the air of the wider college football conversation each week. We’ve already seen an influx of better non-conference games in recent years as the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten moved to nine-game schedules, and Notre Dame’s annual five-game deal with the ACC took shape. This could be an expansion of that, providing more variety and a centralized hub for how those games are scheduled.
For Syracuse, this is a potential win in terms of interest — and a “TBD” in terms of whether or not it does us any favors on the field. From 2013 to 2021, here’s how SU’s power conference opponents have broken out in non-conference play:
And here’s what 2022-26 look like, from what’s scheduled so far:
- Big Ten - 2 (Purdue 2x)
- Notre Dame - 2
- SEC - 1 (Tennessee)
While those are probably the Big Ten teams you want to face, there’s also some stagnancy there as those same opponents are who the Orange were largely scheduling (save Minnesota and Illinois as well) even before the move to the ACC. Syracuse has a sizeable contingent of fans on the West Coast too and even gets talent from out here (as a resident myself), yet they haven’t shadowed the door of the Pacific time zone since the 2011 game vs. USC, which came on the heels of the 2010 game at Washington.
The advantage in an alliance likely comes from the central body doing the matchmaking for us and keeping things competitive, while potentially opening up a larger group of potential foes to play. However, this is really just an advantage if these sorts of games slot in for the current P5 slot in the non-conference schedule.
If we’re adding another game ON TOP OF what’s already there, then things get a lot harder for Syracuse and other lesser teams in these three leagues. One would wonder how they’d configure this as well given the ACC rivalries with SEC teams and existing scheduled matchups between this group of 41 teams and teams in the SEC and Big 12. But overall, this does create a significant number of questions, and not all positive outcomes for the Orange (or similarly down-on-their-luck-lately programs).
Should this sort of alliance open up opportunities for more varied non-conference scheduling, though, who would you want to wind up playing? I’m assuming that despite my comments above, this group votes for Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland just the same, and I do get why. I’d add Northwestern and Illinois to the list, and selfishly, would want to see more West Coast games (especially vs. USC and/or UCLA). But what about you? Share your own ideas below.