Ranking the 2013 nonconference schedules

February, 28, 2013
2/28/13
11:00
AM ET
Let’s get this straight: None of these schedules are easy. Lining up against Georgia and South Carolina, though, is a wee bit more difficult than playing La. Tech and Central Michigan. And so we present to you a ranking of the most difficult nonconference schedules in the ACC, starting with the toughest. (Don't worry, you'll get a chance to weigh in later, so check back.)

1. Clemson (vs. Georgia, vs. South Carolina State, vs. The Citadel, at South Carolina):

Opponents’ 2012 combined winning percentage: 71.4 (35-14)
Toughest opponent: South Carolina (11-2)
Weakest opponent: South Carolina State (5-6)
BCS opponents: 2
FCS opponents: 2
2012 bowl teams: 2
Quick take: Having to play two of the top three teams in the SEC East - and one on the road -- buys the Tigers a pass on their two FCS teams.

2. Virginia (vs. BYU, vs. Oregon, vs. VMI, vs. Ball State):

Opponents’ 2012 combined winning percentage: 62 (31-19)
Toughest opponent: Oregon (12-1)
Weakest opponent: VMI (2-9)
BCS opponents: 1
FCS opponents: 1
2012 bowl teams: 3
Quick take: The Cavaliers have the benefit of playing all four games at home, but adding Oregon to the mix earned them the No. 2 spot.

3. Syracuse (vs. Penn State, at Northwestern, vs. Wagner, vs. Tulane):

Opponents’ 2012 combined winning percentage: 58 (29-21)
Toughest opponent: Northwestern (10-3)
Weakest opponent: (Wagner 9-4)
BCS opponents: 2
FCS opponents: 1
2012 bowl teams: 2
Quick take: Two Big Ten opponents make this a legitimately tough schedule, as Northwestern should be one of the best teams in the conference this year.

4. Pittsburgh (vs. New Mexico, vs. Old Dominion, at Navy, vs. Notre Dame):

Opponents’ 2012 combined winning percentage: 67.3 (35-17)
Toughest opponent: Notre Dame (12-1)
Weakest opponent: Old Dominion (11-2)
BCS opponents: 0
FCS opponents: 1
2012 bowl teams: 2
Quick take: The road trip to Navy is actually a bonus because the Panthers travel to Georgia Tech, which is a similar offense, the following week.

5. Virginia Tech (vs. Alabama, vs. Western Carolina, at East Carolina, vs. Marshall):

Opponents’ 2012 combined winning percentage: 54 (27-23)
Toughest opponent: Alabama (13-1)
Weakest opponent: Western Carolina (1-10)
BCS opponents: 1
FCS opponents: 1
2012 bowl teams: 2
Quick take: If it weren’t for the defending national champs, the Hokies would be ranked even lower.

6. Florida State (vs. Nevada, vs. Bethune-Cookman, vs. Idaho, at Florida):

Opponents’ 2012 combined winning percentage: 56 (28-22)
Toughest opponent: Florida (11-2)
Weakest opponent: Bethune-Cookman (9-3)
BCS opponents: 1
FCS opponents: 1
2012 bowl teams: 2
Quick take: The Noles should at least go 3-1 against these opponents, especially with an open date before Nevada, and playing Idaho before travelling to Florida should be a welcome cushion.

7. Georgia Tech (vs. Elon, at BYU, vs. Alabama A&M, vs. Georgia):

Opponents’ 2012 combined winning percentage: 61.2 (30-19)
Toughest opponent: Georgia (12-2)
Weakest opponent: Elon (3-8)
BCS opponents: 1
FCS opponents: 2
2012 bowl teams: 2
Quick take: The road trip to BYU follows a road trip to Miami, but two FCS opponents bumped the Jackets down a notch.

8. North Carolina (at South Carolina, vs. Middle Tennessee, vs. East Carolina, vs. Old Dominion):

Opponents’ 2012 combined winning percentage: 74.5 (38-13)
Toughest opponent: South Carolina (11-2)
Weakest opponent: Old Dominion (11-2)
BCS opponents: 1
FCS opponents: 1
2012 bowl teams: 2
Quick take: Starting off the season with an ESPN-televised Thursday night game at South Carolina is one of the league’s highlights, but the Heels should fare no worse than 3-1.

9. Miami (vs. Florida Atlantic, vs. Florida, vs. Savannah State, at South Florida):

Opponents’ 2012 combined winning percentage: 37.5 (18-30)
Toughest opponent: Florida (11-2)
Weakest opponent: Florida Atlantic (3-9)
BCS opponents: 2
FCS opponents: 1
2012 bowl teams: 1
Quick take: Hardly the gauntlet the Canes have faced in recent years, and never having to leave the state is a big plus.

10. Boston College (vs. Villanova, at USC, Army, at New Mexico State):

Opponents’ 2012 combined winning percentage: 36.7 (18-31)
Toughest opponent: USC (7-6)
Weakest opponent: New Mexico State (1-11)
BCS opponents: 1
FCS opponents: 1
2012 bowl teams: 1
Quick take: Why on earth do the Eagles have to travel across the country twice?

11. Maryland (vs. FIU, vs. Old Dominion, at Connecticut, vs. West Virginia):

Opponents’ 2012 combined winning percentage: 52 (26-24)
Toughest opponent: West Virginia (7-6)
Weakest opponent: Old Dominion (11-2)
BCS opponents: 2
FCS opponents: 1
2012 bowl teams: 1
Quick take: The Terps should trade schedules with Syracuse so they can get a head start on Big Ten competition and Cuse can face familiar foes.

12. Wake Forest: (vs. Presbyterian, vs. Louisiana-Monroe, at Army, at Vanderbilt):

Opponents’ 2012 combined winning percentage: 42.8 (21-28)
Toughest opponent: Vanderbilt (9-4)
Weakest opponent: Presbyterian (2-9)
BCS opponents: 1
FCS opponents: 1
2012 bowl teams: 1
Quick take: Vanderbilt is a much better program under James Franklin, but this is a very manageable schedule.

13. NC State (vs. Louisiana Tech, vs. Richmond, vs. Central Michigan, vs. East Carolina):

Opponents’ 2012 combined winning percentage: 65.3 (32-17)
Toughest opponent: ECU
Weakest opponent: Richmond (8-3)
BCS opponents: 0
FCS opponents: 1
2012 bowl teams: 2
Quick take: First-year coach Dave Doeren has it easy: 4-0 or bust.

14. Duke (vs. NC Central, at Memphis, vs. Troy, vs. Navy):

Opponents’ 2012 combined winning percentage: 47.9 (23-25)
Toughest opponent: Navy (8-5)
Weakest opponent: NC Central (6-5)
BCS opponents: 0
FCS opponents: 1
2012 bowl teams: 1
Quick take: This schedule is conducive to the Blue Devils getting back to a bowl game.

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