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There has been plenty of talk throughout the years of Virginia Techís out-of-conference schedule. Many fans, rivals and college football analysts perceive it to be weak and a big part of the Hokiesí success year after year. With that in mind, letís compare Virginia Techís 2006 out-of-conference schedule to the rest of the ACC.
First letís look at Northeastern, a 1-AA school that plays in the Atlantic-10. Sure, Northeastern is a weak team that the Hokies will mop the floor with. Be ready to see a lot of backups play in the second half. But how does playing a 1-AA school differ from the rest of the ACC? It doesnít. Eight other ACC teams will play 1-AA teams this season. The only schools that fill their schedule with all 1-A teams are Virginia, Florida State and Clemson.
Maryland will host William & Mary to open the season, and Wake Forest will play a bad 1-AA team in Liberty. Miami will play Florida A&M, and Tech fans remember the quality of team they brought to Lane Stadium back in 2004. With one extra game on the schedule beginning in 2006, it is difficult to find one more 1-A team to play on short notice, especially when you are attempting to schedule an optimum number of home games.
Many people donít like it, and thereís a good chance youíre one of them. But thatís just what it has come to. College football is a big business, and like any big business, the idea is to maximize revenue. The Hokies arenít making as much money by playing at Ohio State, Penn State, etc. Those types of games are growing rarer as the years go by.
There is also the idea of scheduling for success, which the Hokies obviously do. All four of their out-of-conference games are at home. Florida State is the only other ACC team with eight home games. This type of philosophy certainly makes the non-conference portion of the schedule less appealing, but would you rather be UNC?
The Tar Heels finished 6-5 in 2004 and 5-6 in 2005. In 2004, the Tar Heels played William and Mary, plus top-six teams Louisville (#6) and Utah (#4), losing to both the Cards and the Utes. A softer schedule could have seen them finish 8-3 instead of 6-5. In 2005, UNC played Wisconsin, Utah, and Louisville, beating the Utes but losing to both Wisconsin and Louisville. If the Tar Heels had mixed in a 1-AA team and a weak 1-A team, they could have tallied a winning record and a bowl bid. UNC was 4-4 in the ACC, finishing ahead of 3-5 Virginia, but the Cavaliers went bowling and the Tar Heels didn't. Virginia played Western Michigan, Syracuse, and Temple out of conference.
UNC has also recently played games against Texas and Arizona State. The Tar Heels will play 1-AA Furman in 2006, but they also host USF and Rutgers, both of which went to bowl games in 2005. In addition, UNC will travel to Notre Dame, who went to the Fiesta Bowl.
Virginia Tech differs from some other ACC teams because they donít have a big-time non-conference rival to play each year. They are now in the same conference with Virginia, and the Hokies are no longer playing West Virginia. Tech has started a long series with East Carolina, but the Pirates are in rebuilding mode in Conference USA. Meanwhile, every season sees Clemson play South Carolina, Florida State play Florida and Georgia Tech play Georgia, not to mention Marylandís annual clash with West Virginia. The Hokies donít have a game like that to fall back on anymore, and that isnít helping their reputation.
Besides Northeastern, the Hokies will play Cincinnati, Southern Miss and Kent State. That schedule isnít much different than some of the other teams in the ACC. NC State plays Appalachian State, Akron, Southern Miss and ECU. Maryland has to step out of conference to play West Virginia, but the rest of their schedule features William & Mary, Florida International and Middle Tennessee State.
The Clemson Tigers play Florida Atlantic, Louisiana Tech and Temple. Boston College will take on Ohio, BYU, Maine and Buffalo. The Miami Hurricanes play an interesting game at Louisville. The Hurricanes have absolutely nothing to gain from going on the road and beating the Cardinals. Instead, they have everything to lose. Louisville knocked off Florida State back in 2002 and nearly won in the Orange Bowl in 2004. Besides Louisville, the Hurricanes play Florida A&M, Houston and Florida International.
So Virginia Techís out-of-conference schedule isnít much different from most other teams in the conference. Athletic director Jim Weaverís philosophy is to maximize revenue, and the Hokies will pull in a lot of money with eight home games. Weaver said on the Hokie Hotline this fall that each home game, after expenses and the payout to the visiting team, nets about $1 million.
More important is each teamís ACC schedule. With a 12 team league, it is impossible to play every team each year, so the schedules arenít balanced. For example, the Hokies donít have to play Florida State this season, but Virginia must play Miami, FSU and Virginia Tech.
Making a list of where teams will likely be projected to finish next season, I assigned a number rating for each team in the conference. For example, I project that Miami will be picked to finish first in the league, so I gave them a value of one. Duke will be last, so I gave them a value of 12. UVA is projected seventh, so they have a value of seven.
The lower the number a team has, the tougher schedule they play. The Hokies play Duke (12), Georgia Tech (5), Clemson (4) and Virginia (7) at home. Average those numbers together, and the Hokies have a home schedule value of seven. The Hokies play UNC (10), Boston College (6), Miami (1) and Wake Forest (11) on the road. Again, the average is a seven, making an overall average of seven.
By this formula, the Hokies have the second-easiest conference schedule in the ACC. Florida State has the easiest, with a rating of 7.125. Duke has the hardest schedule at 5.375, with Maryland close behind at 5.5. Letís take a look at how the entire league shakes out.
As you can see, Maryland and Duke have the toughest schedules in ACC play, at least by the standards of this formula. Virginia Tech and Florida State have the easiest conference schedules.
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