Quirky ACC schedule could help Jackets, trip Heels
Posted September 20, 2013
At Georgia Tech on Saturday (Noon, ESPN), North Carolina obviously cannot win the Coastal Division title of the ACC in its first conference game of the season.
But on the flip side, the Yellow Jackets (2-0 overall, 1-0 ACC) can go far in positioning themselves for a trip to the league championship game on Dec. 7 in Charlotte.
It’s all about the schedule – the eternally strange nature of ACC football scheduling, that is.
If Tech, a touchdown favorite, beats Carolina (1-1, 0-0) for the eighth straight time in Atlanta, the schedule will give Paul Johnson and his option-offense team an opportunity to make rapid work of the top divisional challengers.
After UNC, the Jackets will get the coveted quick home turnaround with a game next Thursday against Virginia Tech (2-1, 0-0).
Against the option, teams want what the Heels have Saturday – extra time to prepare for the three to six instantaneous reactions that have to be made on every play against the formation. Larry Fedora’s defensive staff has had since Sept. 7 to get ready to correct the breakdowns that resulted in last season’s 68-50 loss in Chapel Hill.
Virginia Tech, which was lucky to escape ECU last week and could have some more trouble Saturday against Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato, will have less time rather than more to prepare for the option.
If the Jackets win over both Carolina and Virginia Tech, the schedule then smiles on them again by allowing for three extra days of preparation before a trip to Miami on Oct. 5 –12 days before the Hurricanes could face a potential elimination game at Carolina on Thursday Oct. 17.
What’s more, the Heels will have to go to Virginia Tech the week before they entertain Miami. There’s a chance Fedora’s second-year team could play reasonably well, lose two close road games at the Techs and basically be completely out of the title chase before its first home league game (The Heels host Miami Oct. 17 in a Thursday night ESPN game.).
With so many time-honored non-conference regular-season finales, the ACC probably will never have conventional scheduling balance. The sort of quirks that could end Coastal suspense early this season will likely pop up with regularity in both divisions.
Tech’s schedule this season ends with not one, but two non-conference games.
There’s the usual finale against Georgia on Nov. 30 in Atlanta, preceded by a visit from Alabama A&M on Nov. 23.
Don’t blame it on Johnson. He’s campaigned to move the Georgia game to an earlier date for years. But the odds, and history, are heavily stacked against him.