Late Wednesday afternoon the ACC announced a 10-game conference schedule for the 15 member schools - including the Notre Dame Fighting Irish - which, it hopes, will allow its teams to play football for the 2020 season. It’s not the double round-robin format which was previously floated by some sports writers, but 10 unique games for each team. Furthermore, although the league did away with the geographically-challenged Atlantic and Coastal divisions, this schedule isn’t based on geographic pods either... or is it?
A close examination of the actual schedule for ACC football reveals an underlying structure - three pods of uneven size but roughly geographic:
North (five teams): Boston College, Syracuse, Pitt, Notre Dame, Louisville
Central (six teams): Virginia, Virginia Tech, Duke, North Carolina, NC State, Wake Forest
South (four teams): Clemson, Georgia Tech, Florida State, Miami
Within each of these imaginary pods the teams are, in fact, playing a full round-robin. Check it out - the Pittsburgh Panthers are set to play the other four teams in the “ACC North”, for example. The same is true for every other team in every other “pod”.
Of course, when you play 10 unique games and there are only four other teams in your “pod” you’re going to have to play some teams in the other pods, too. How did the ACC come up with those games? Here’s what I think it did: I believe the league started with the premise that it would eliminate the longest trips first - so the Boston College Eagles and the Syracuse Orange would not play the Miami Hurricanes or the Florida State Seminoles. After that, it appears the ACC tried to keep as many in-conference rivalry games as possible (e.g. Pitt vs. Miami) while also adding and/or preserving some match-ups which haven’t been played in many years.
Is the 10-game schedule perfect? Far from it! However, I submit to you readers that it’s far superior to what we’ve been getting with the Atlantic and Coastal divisions, and will give us some nice geographic rivalry games... if the season is actually played, of course.