Last week, the date became official. On the morning of July 1st, 2013, Panther fans everywhere will awake to find that their school is no longer a member of the BIG EAST Conference, but now the Atlantic Coast Conference. With the switch in conference affiliation, change is sure to follow.
One major change will be the Panthers' schedule. UConn, Rutgers, Cincinnati, Louisville, and South Florida will be gone and replaced with the likes of Virginia, North Carolina, Boston College, and many others. Not only will the conference teams be changing, but the entire structure of the schedule as well.
Currently, teams in the eight member BIG EAST play a seven game conference schedule (only the seven team WAC will player fewer conference games in the 2012 season). To complete the 12 game season schedule, BIG EAST teams are forced to schedule an unheard of number of non-conference games, five. These five openings often proved difficult to fill with quality opponents as most every other conference in FBS is looking to fill only three or four openings.
Earlier this year, the ACC announced that when the conference reached 14 members, which is now known to be July 1st, 2013, teams would begin playing a nine game conference schedule. Last week, the guys over at SB Nation's Miami blog, The 7th Floor, made some very educated guesses at predicting Pitt's and Syracuse's conference schedule based on previously released pre-expansion schedules (yes, I just used Miami and educated in the same sentence).
With nine games against ACC opponents set for 2013, the Panthers will be left with only three non-conference openings. The question then becomes what is going happen to the non-conference opponents Pitt has already scheduled out as far as 2019? Let's take a look.
Here is the list of Pitt's currently scheduled non-conference games for the next seven years:
|2013||Villanova||@ Virginia Tech||NC State||@ Navy||Notre Dame|
|2014||Delaware||@ FIU||Iowa||Akron||@ Notre Dame|
|2015||@ Akron||@ Iowa||Notre Dame|
|2016||Penn State||@ Notre Dame|
|2017||@ Penn State|
Since the 2016 through 2019 schedules do not have a complete three-game schedule, we'll just ignore those for now and focus on 2013, 2014, and 2015. For this exercise, we will apply the following rules:
- There will be at least six home games on each year's schedule (Pitt will play four conference home games in odd years, five in even years).
- One of the three seasons will have at least seven home games (since joining the BIG EAST in 1991, Pitt has averaged 6 1/3 home games per season).
- No game against a BCS Conference school shall be bought out.
The 2013 Schedule
Despite having five non-conference games currently on the schedule, 2013 should be the easiest to sort out. That's because two of the five opponents are ACC teams.
Virginia Tech is guaranteed to be on Pitt's schedule every season as the two teams are both assigned to the Coastal division, so switching this game from a non-conference to a conference game is a no brainer. With Virginia Tech coming to Heinz Field in 2012, expect the 2013 contest to remain in Blacksburg.
NC State would be a cross divisional game, so there is less certainty that it will be moved to a conference game. It doesn't really matter though, as if the teams do not play, both will need to drop this game for an ACC opponent. Consider this a mutually agreed upon cancellation, without a buyout (Rule #3).
Predicted non-conference games: Villanova, @ Navy, Notre Dame
Predicted conference games: Virginia, @ Georgia Tech, @ Duke, North Carolina, Miami, @ Virginia Tech, @ Syracuse, Florida State, @ Wake Forest
The 2014 Schedule
Actually, we'll come back to this one.
The 2015 Schedule
At first glance, the 2015 schedule appears to be in great shape having only three opponents scheduled. But after further investigation, the current make-up of the schedule breaks Rule #1. Being an odd year, Pitt will only play four home conference games in addition to the one scheduled home non-conference game. This isn't going to fly. So who goes?
Both the Notre Dame and Iowa games would break Rule #3, plus neither of those would be cancelled simply so Pitt can keep its road date with Akron. Nothing against the Zips, but Pitt shouldn't even be traveling there in the first place.
The Akron game is part of a home-home over the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Perhaps the best solution for both schools would be to switch the 2015 game at Akron to Heinz Field. I would say to move the 2014 game from Heinz Field to Akron, but since two games need to be bought out in 2014, might as well just buy out that half of the series now. That would also leave the Zips with only one game to fill on their schedule instead of two.
Predicted non-conference games: Akron, @ Iowa, Notre Dame
Predicted conference games: Virginia, @ Georgia Tech, @ Duke, North Carolina, Miami, @ Virginia Tech, @ Syracuse, Open Home Date, Open Road Date (Pick Two: Maryland, Clemson, NC State, Boston College)
The 2014 Schedule, Revisited
As stated above, eliminating the 2014 half of the Akron series would help limit the possibilities of which one of the four remaining non-conference games need to be bought out. If we apply Rule #3, we can again forget about canceling either the home game against Iowa or the Notre Dame game in South Bend. If we apply Rule #2 (which we have not yet applied), Pitt will be shooting for seven home games in years which they have five home conference games. It would then make sense to leave Delaware on the schedule, eliminating the game at Florida International.
Predicted non-conference games: Delaware, Iowa, @ Notre Dame
Predicted conference games: @ Virginia, Georgia Tech, Duke, @ North Carolina, @ Miami, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Open Home Date, Open Road Date (Pick the two not selected above: Maryland, Clemson, NC State, Boston College)
If the schedules play out as predicted, Pitt should have at least three quality home games a season. The sound of that should make us all salivate after having only one quality home game in 2012 (Virginia Tech).
Perhaps an added benefit will be that there is not room on the schedule to play both Youngstown State and Gardner-Webb in the same season. Hooray for small miracles.