The question of eight conference football games vs. nine has been widely discussed in the past. Now it seems as if an ACC Channel could influence the decision:
At the board of trustees meeting for the Georgia Tech Athletic Association last Thursday, athletic director Mike Bobinski shared an update about scheduling discussions among officials at the ACC member schools and brought up ESPN’s possible influence.
At the conference’s meetings this week, the conference and ESPN are expected to have an update on where things stand in regards to a possible ACC channel. Should it go forward, Bobinski said, ESPN will likely want more "inventory" to put on the channel, meaning an additional conference game.
To me, it doesn't really matter all that much. But if given the option, my position has always been to keep it at eight games. Scheduling an extra non-conference matchup can be admittedly difficult. There's lots to consider - cream puff vs. strong opponent, trying to get the game at home for extra revenue, actually finding an opponent that's available. All of that comes into play. However, the flexibility for a fourth out of conference opponent is the true allure for me.
From Pitt's vantage point, that means more of an opportunity to keep Penn State on the schedule if the Nittany Lions will oblige. It means a better chance at a Backyard Brawl against West Virginia (though, as we've discussed before, the administration doesn't seem to care much about that right now). It could even mean games against a former Big East foe like Rutgers or South Florida just for the heck of it. The Scarlet Knights and Bulls aren't attractive opponents in and of themselves, but they also represent areas where Pitt has recruited in the past in New Jersey and Florida. Playing the occasional game there might not be all that bad for business.
In recent years, the Panthers have went off the board a little bit to face some non-traditional foes such as Iowa, Utah, and soon, Oklahoma State. An extra non-conference game also affords you the opportunity to continue to do that.
All of that said, if it's a roadblock in the way of an ACC Channel (and trust me, it won't be given the amount of money we're talking about here), I'll be the first to let go of that idea. A channel for the league represents far too much potential revenue to let an extra game against the likes of Utah get in the way. And with three non-con games, it's not as if Pitt won't have any opportunity to face Penn State on an annual basis anyway.
My preference is to continue with eight ACC games. A ninth game would afford more of an opportunity to match up against teams in the other division (assuming that format even stays the same ... that article alludes to a possible change there as well) such as Florida State and Clemson for Pitt. But if it stands in the way of an ACC Channel, it's clearly not a dealbreaker.