- David M. Hale, College football
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ESPN reporters Adam Rittenberg and Andrea Adelson have looked at what life in college football might be like without the divisional format currently employed by four of the five major conferences. Certainly there are plenty of advocates for a change, but it might not be universally seen as a positive move in the ACC. Here’s our quick look at who would benefit and who might be hurt by eliminating the divisions.
Teams that would welcome a change in the divisional format:
Miami Hurricanes: The Hurricanes are stuck playing Florida State every year, which, given the Seminoles’ recent run of success, is no easy task. The problem for Miami is the rest of its competition in the Coastal Division doesn’t have that same challenge, which means the Canes are at a distinct disadvantage every season. If the divisional format is scrapped, however, the playing field evens quite a bit, because while Miami will still have its annual showdown with FSU, so too will the majority of the Canes’ competition.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons: This probably goes for Boston College, NC State and Syracuse, too. It’s tough being the little guy in a division that features FSU, Clemson and Louisville. Yes, winning can be cyclical, and it wasn’t that long ago that Wake (and later BC) won the Atlantic Division. Still, with spending reaching astronomical proportions, keeping up with the Joneses (or the Noles and Tigers) isn’t as easy as it used to be.
Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Louisville: With 14 teams in the conference, just eight conference games and the added difficulties of cross-divisional rivalries and Notre Dame’s occasional appearance on the schedule, it takes 12 years before each team cycles through a home-and-home series. For the new teams in the ACC, that might mean an awfully long wait before they get their first crack at playing some big-name teams on their home turf.
Teams that might want things to stay as they are:
Duke Blue Devils: David Cutcliffe’s crew certainly has made some big strides the past three years, but the Blue Devils have also managed to squeak by without playing some of the ACC’s tougher opponents. And while Duke certainly isn’t admitting to being intimidated, it’s also worth noting that it’s just 3-33 against FSU and Clemson since the Seminoles joined the league in 1992.
Virginia Tech Hokies: Despite their recent struggles, the Hokies have virtually owned the Coastal Division since arriving from the Big East in 2004. From a recruiting standpoint, Frank Beamer has had a leg up on most of his top competition in the division, and he’s had the luxury of being the preeminent ACC team north of the Carolinas. But what happens if FSU and Clemson start making more routine forays into the state of Virginia? Life might get a lot tougher on the field and on the recruiting trail.
Florida State and Clemson: For the past few years, they’ve been atop the league, but they’ve been forced to share real estate in the Atlantic, meaning just one can make the ACC title game. Opening up the door to both teams certainly has its advantages, but it might also mean the ACC’s heavyweights have to go toe-to-toe multiple times in order to make it to a New Year's Six game.
Atlantic Division rivals Florida State and Clemson have been the ACC's top two programs in recent seasons, but only one can play for the league title.