Clemson claimed the CFP national title, giving the ACC bragging rights heading into 2017. Let’s take a look at the league’s easiest and hardest schedules next season based on opponent’s winning percentages from ’16.
The Atlantic Coast Conference will begin the 2017 season with Clemson looking to defend its national championship, as the Tigers dethroned Alabama to win the College Football Playoff, giving the school its first national title since 1981.
The win by the Tigers gave the ACC a 9-3 mark this postseason—the league’s most-ever victories in a single postseason. And it was all capped off with a national title win over the SEC’s king of the mountain.
Looking ahead to next season, Clemson will have some competition for league and national supremacy. The Tigers will host a Jarrett Stidham-led Auburn squad and travel to South Carolina, but Florida State is also an annual tough test. However, Dabo Swinney and Co. will get the ‘Noles at home after surviving a scare in Tallahassee this past season. Speaking of the ‘Noles, in addition to traveling to Florida for their annual in-state rivalry game, Jimbo Fisher and Co. will open up against an Alabama squad in Atlanta that figures to be salty and looking to prove that its loss to Clemson was a mere blip on the radar.
Lamar Jackson and Louisville do not have a difficult non-conference slate next season, which may not necessarily be a great thing. Because of the lack of star power on the Cardinals’ schedule (Purdue and Kentucky are the headliners), running the table in the ACC may be mandatory for Bobby Petrino’s squad to have any shot at the CFP.
In terms of this season’s middle-tier ACC squads, Georgia Tech has a difficult opener against Tennessee on a neutral field, and there are also dates with UCF on the road and at home against Georgia. Miami, meanwhile, will travel to Arkansas State one year after doing the same at Appalachian State, so it’s nice to see the Sun Belt get some opportunities to host Group of Five squads.
North Carolina will be forced to move on without star quarterback Mitch Trubisky, and the non-conference schedule features home tilts with Cal and Notre Dame as well as a road matchup with Old Dominion. Pitt, meanwhile, has very difficult noncon games at Penn State and at home against Oklahoma State. Finally, ACC Coastal division champ Virginia Tech has a real interesting slate outside of the league. The Hokies open against West Virginia in Landover, MD, and travel to East Carolina before hosting Old Dominion, which is coming off of a very strong season in Conference USA.
Looking at some of the lower-tier teams in the league, Syracuse will look to earn a postseason bid in the second year of the Dino Babers era, but a major test looms against LSU in Death Valley on Sept. 23 after games against Middle Tennessee and Central Michigan. Wake Forest, meanwhile, needs to take care of business out of conference in case ACC wins are difficult to attain after winning a bowl game this season. The Sept. 24 showdown at Indiana could loom large. If Duke is to return to the postseason, the Blue Devils may need to win two out of the following three: against Northwestern, Baylor and at Army. Bronco Mendenhall, meanwhile, may find it difficult to go bowling in his second year in Charlottesville, as tough games against Indiana and at Boise State await in 2017.
Here are how the schedules rank, from easiest to hardest, by the 2016 winning percentage of each team’s opponent.
ACC Football Schedule Rankings For 2017
14. Louisville: .486
13. North Carolina: .512
12. Boston College: .512
11. NC State: .529
10. Wake Forest: .530
9. Miami: .534
8. Pittsburgh: .553
7. Virginia Tech: .561
6. Virginia: .569
5. Florida State: .574
4. Clemson: .581
*Notre Dame (partial league member): .595
3. Georgia Tech: .601
2. Syracuse: .603
1. Duke: .604