ACC Atlantic Ultimate Schedule

July 22nd, 2009

There are many articles out there on the best games this season, on a national level as well as by conference. But how would each conference’s (or in some cases division) schedule look if you had to follow the actual rules when doing so? This is just one person’s opinion, so feel free to add your input/suggestions. First up: the ACC Atlantic, which promises to be a wild and unpredictable division this season.


ACC Schedule “Rules”:

-         Four Non-conference games

-         Eight conference games (five within the division and three against Coastal Division opponents)

-         ACC Championship Game


Week 1: South Carolina @ NC State (September 3rd)


Last season’s game was a blowout in favor of the Gamecocks, who also knocked Russell Wilson out of the game. Wilson recovered to be one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC, and the Wolfpack eventually ended up going bowling in their first season under Tom O’Brien. Carter-Finley Stadium should be more than ready for the season opener in front of a Thursday night ESPN audience, and it’s also a game that should provide better insight into a team some have picked to win the division.


Other Games Considered: Baylor @ Wake Forest (9/5) and Florida State @ Miami (9/7)


Week 2: Clemson @ Georgia Tech (September 10th)


A second consecutive Thursday night gives us an interdivisional battle between title contenders. Who the starting quarterback is for the Tigers is anyone’s guess at this point, but Clemson does have a defense that could be the best in the ACC under Kevin Steele. They’ll be tested in a big way in Atlanta, with Paul Johnson having at his fingertips one of the nation’s better running back tandems in Jonathan Dwyer and Roddy Jones. The Yellow Jackets have the ability to put some points on the board in a hurry, and Clemson’s C.J. Spiller will have an opportunity to bolster his Heisman candidacy in front of a national television audience. 


Other Game Considered: Stanford @ Wake Forest (9/12)


Week 3: Florida State @ BYU (September 19th)


Make no mistake about it: this is an extremely dangerous game for the Seminoles, one in which they should be the underdog. Quarterback Max Hall leads the way for the Cougars, who will have already faced Oklahoma when they meet the Seminoles. Defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews has an awful lot of talent to replace going into 2009, and this game will be the second test for those replacement. Christian Ponder goes up against a defense that finished 59th nationally last season and returns eight starters, so the Cougars should be a bit more productive on that side of the ball. Florida State won’t get beat like UCLA did when they went to Provo last year, but this is a game where a Seminole win would be considered a mild upset.


Other Game Considered:  Boston College @ Clemson (9/19)


Week 4: TCU @ Clemson (September 26th)


The ACC Atlantic takes on the Mountain West for the second consecutive weekend, with the Tigers taking on the media pick to win the MWC. Gary Patterson’s Horned Frogs aren’t considered explosive on offense, but with QB Andy Dalton at the controls they get things done. But TCU’s calling card is the stout defense, led by one of the nation’s best defensive ends in senior Jerry Hughes.


Watching Hughes and Clemson DE Da’Quan Bowers will be a treat, with both being likely candidates for NFL paydays in their football futures. Some have pegged TCU as a possible “BCS buster”, and given the Mountain West’s stance regarding the BCS it would be prudent for the Horned Frogs to win in Death Valley.


Other Games Considered: Wake Forest @ Boston College (9/26), USF @ Florida State (9/26), Pittsburgh @ NC State (9/26)


Week 5: Florida State @ Boston College (October 3rd)


In their last meeting in Chestnut Hill (2007), the Seminoles spoiled the Eagles’ national title hopes with an upset win at The Heights. A late pick-six sealed the deal, but it still wasn’t enough to keep Matt Ryan and company from playing for the ACC title. If Boston College were to find themselves in a similar position this season new head coach Frank Spaziani would have one of the best first years in recent college football history.


The Eagles don’t have one quarterback on the roster that has thrown a collegiate pass (I’m not counting Billy Flutie, who’s listed as a wide receiver), but they do have capable backs in Montell Harris and Josh Haden and a solid line. The Seminoles are in need of help at running back and wide receiver, and how good the answers are will determine whether or not they win the Atlantic. In a wide-open division, this game will be the tone-setter for both teams and their chances to reach Tampa.


Other Games Considered: Clemson @ Maryland (10/3), NC State @ Wake Forest (10/3)


Week 6: Maryland @ Wake Forest (October 10th)


Good luck forecasting this one. Wake has to replace a number of key playmakers on defense, but they do have QB Riley Skinner back for his senior campaign. The Terrapins are also lean when it comes to returning starters on defense, with Ralph Friedgen welcoming back just four starters. But the Maryland backfield is loaded, with Chris Turner being able to give the ball to backs Da’Rel Scott and Davin Meggett, and wide receiver Emani Lee-Odai played well in spring camp.


Nine offensive starters are back for the Demon Deacons, and they’ll test a Maryland defense that finished tenth in the ACC in total defense a season ago. And when you return your entire offensive line like Jim Grobe’s team does, you’ve got a very good shot to be a part of the title chase all season long.


Other Games Considered: Georgia Tech @ Florida State (10/10), Boston College @ Virginia Tech (10/10)


Week 7: NC State @ Boston College (October 17th)


Back in Chestnut Hill, this time for Tom O’Brien’s second trip back to the area to take on his last employer. His program in Raleigh looks to be in solid position to be a contender in the ACC for years to come, but they haven’t posted a winning record in four seasons and that will have to change. Russell Wilson is one of the league’s best quarterbacks, while on the other sideline it is hoped that BC has found a solid solution by this point in the season. Wake Forest/Clemson may be the better game in regards to overall talent on the field, but you can make a case for everyone being in play at this point in the season when it comes to winning the division.


Other Game Considered: Wake Forest @ Clemson (10/17)


Week 8: Florida State @ North Carolina (October 22nd)


The Seminoles take a step out of the division and head to Chapel Hill to take on Butch Davis’ Tar Heels. Carolina is in position this season to reap the benefits of the coaching staff’s recruiting efforts, but they could still be the third best team in the Coastal Division thanks to the quality of Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Florida State should be in solid position within the Atlantic, and a win here would go a long way in getting them back to the ACC Championship Game for the first time since 2005 (the first year of the game). Nine starters are back on the North Carolina defense, something that could give Florida State fits in this Thursday night contest.


Other Games Considered: Boston College @ Notre Dame (10/24), Clemson @ Miami (10/24)


Week 9: NC State @ Florida State (October 31st)


Halloween brings us the showdown that could very well decide who wins the Atlantic Division. If Jamelle Eugene and Toney Baker are healthy by this point in the season, give the edge to the Wolfpack as that would give them ample balance to the skills of reigning First Team All-ACC quarterback Russell Wilson. Balance has been something sorely lacking on offense at FSU in recent years, with the Seminoles struggling to produce consistently on the ground.

Going into Doak Campbell and leaving with a win has been difficult historically for ACC teams, but the job has gotten easier as the product on the field has dropped below the level that fans had become accustomed to. Either winner goes a long way in punching their ticket, or they become a spoiler and open the door for someone else to win the division.


Other Games Considered: Miami @ Wake Forest (10/31), Central Michigan @ Boston College (10/31)


Week 10: Bye week (November 7th)


Games Considered: Florida State @ Clemson (11/7), Wake Forest @ Georgia Tech (11/7), Maryland @ NC State (11/7)


Week 11: Clemson @ NC State (November 14th)


A game that matches up two likely candidates for ACC Offensive Player of the Year (Wilson and Spiller) could also decide who wins the division. Both teams return many of their starters on the defensive side of the football, but Wilson could very well be the deciding factor should Clemson not find a concrete solution of their own under center. How well will Kevin Steele’s attacking style do a keeping Wilson in check? That remains to be seen, but the Tigers do have the athletes necessary to make the scheme work. Clemson won last year’s meeting in Death Valley comfortably; they won’t enjoy such a home field advantage at Carter-Finley.


Other Games Considered: Florida State @ Wake Forest (11/14), Virginia Tech @ Maryland (11/14)


Week 12: NC State @ Virginia Tech (November 21st)


Hate to overload you with the Wolfpack, but this meeting in Blacksburg could be an ACC Championship Game preview. Then again, with the game coming so late in the season it could be an eliminator for both teams as well. Two of the better dual threat quarterbacks in the conference will be on display in Wilson and Tech’s Tyrod Taylor. Taylor’s probably the better of the two with his legs but Wilson makes up for that with his arm. And his right arm will have to carry the day for State; it’s difficult to picture anyone running roughshod over Bud Foster’s traditionally stout defense.


Other Game Considered: Maryland @ Florida State (11/21)


Week 13: Florida State @ Florida (November 28th)


It should be an emotional afternoon in Gainesville, with Tim Tebow playing his last game in “The Swamp”. Tebow put the Gators on his back in last year’s meeting, on one touchdown run dragging Seminole defenders into the end zone and causing Bobby Bowden to drop the Bronko Nagurski comparison. Florida has never had an undefeated team in school history; Florida State has had one (1999). FSU would like nothing more than to keep it that way, but they’ll need their best game of the season to make sure that’s the end result. Can the Seminoles be a national title spoiler? The odds are against them, but rivalry games can bring out unexpected results.


Other Games Considered: North Carolina @ NC State (11/28), Clemson @ South Carolina (11/28)


Week 14: ACC Championship Game (Tampa, FL)


My Prediction: Virginia Tech claims their third straight conference title, beating Florida State.