8 days until the ACC: 8 vs. 9 conference games
Yesterday was a look at the pros and cons of a 9-game conference schedule within the ACC. Today we do the same with 8 games.
To be honest, both are good systems. As I said yesterday, in some leagues, a 9-game conference schedule works. Take the Pac-12 or the current Big 12. With most not having major non-conference rivalries, these schools are free to mix up their non-conference schedules from season to season. At the same time, an 8-game schedule is perfect for leagues like the ACC or the SEC, who with a 9-game schedule and an annual non-conference rivalry game would be severely limited in it's non-conference scheduling. This is especially true for the ACC schools, who have a game against Notre Dame at least once every three years.
Most schools in the Power 5 conferences aim for seven home games a season. For many, football funds the rest of the athletic department. The more home games there are, the more money the school brings in. At the very least, four home games are conference games. The rest come from non-conference play. Schools with nine conference games, in years that they only have 4 home conference games, usually have to schedule guarantee games in order to get that 7th home game, thereby using all 3 non-conference games on weak opponents. The final score may not be pretty, but at least it pays the bills.
But schools with eight conference games have an extra non-conference game to schedule, so it allows for more marquee non-conference games. That doesn't mean they'll necessarily do so - Florida hasn't traveled outside the state of Florida for a non-conference game since the early 90s. But there's the chance to do so while still securing seven home games. Me personally, I like schools scheduling marquee opponents in the non-conference. It keeps the game exciting and interesting. Conference games are always important and big games. But the non-conference allows us to see teams Pitt doesn't normally play, like the Iowa series or Michigan State and Nebraska a few years back.
However, while schools are free to schedule more opponents out of conference, in conference is a different story. The Panthers play Florida State on Labor Day and, barring a meeting in the ACC Championship Game, won't see the Seminoles until 2020. After playing Louisville every season since 2005, Pitt plays the Cardinals in 2015 and then won't see them again until 2022. That's a pretty big negative for a lot of the ACC schools, who miss out on playing the bigger names in the opposing division more often than not.
Both systems can work for the ACC. I think with how the ACC is set up now, an 8-game schedule works better for the league. But if they work the schedule right, a 9-game schedule can be done.