Ten observations from the 2017 ACC football schedule that was released last week:
1. Non-conference scheduling shouldn’t hinder the ACC when it comes playoff/bowl selection time. The ACC will play a national-most 22 games against teams from the four other Power 5 conferences, including matchups with seven teams that were ranked in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll. It will play 26 non-conference games against teams that went to a bowl game last season, the second-most in the country. That includes the 11 ACC teams that went bowling in 2016.
2. There are nine games between teams from the ACC and SEC with the bulk of them bookending the season. The conferences will square off in three games during the opening weekend and close out the regular season with four games on Saturday, Nov. 25.
3. Good luck if you’re seeking a reason for why open dates are selected other than it’s simply how the puzzle’s pieces fit together. Virginia will be the first ACC team with a free weekend when the Cavaliers are idle on Week 5. Three other teams — Florida State, Georgia Tech and Miami — have cozy mid-season byes a week later with the rest of the league receiving time off by the end of October.
4. Four teams won’t get a break until Week 10 when Boston College, Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Wake Forest sit out the weekend of Nov. 4. Louisville and Pittsburgh will play at home the following week against Virginia and UNC, respectively. Boston College, Duke and Wake Forest have road games scheduled.
5. Interesting note, Part I: N.C. State’s open date is Week 8 this season. The Wolfpack had Week 4 off in 2016 after an opening stretch against non-conference, Group of 5 opponents William & Mary (48-14 win), at East Carolina (33-30 loss), and Old Dominion (49-22 win). N.C. State returned to play a nine-games-in-nine-weeks span that culminated with a 28-21 win at UNC.
6. Interesting note, Part II: Georgia Tech will play three league opponents that will be coming off an open week for the second straight season. Only Florida State, in 2013 and 2014, has had similar scheduling over the past five seasons. The flip side is that Boston College and Louisville (which entered the ACC in 2015) have yet to face a rested conference opponent.
7. ACC teams will face the winners of 10 of the last 11 national title teams. Of course, that includes defending champion Clemson and 2014 winner Florida State.
8. Notre Dame, what with its Faustian deal with the ACC, is omnipresent on the ACC’s master schedule. The Fighting Irish is required to play four to six games each season against ACC opponents as part of its full-time league membership in all other sports. In 2017, it plays at Boston College (Sept. 16), UNC (Oct. 7) and Miami (Nov. 11) while hosting N.C. State (Oct. 28) and Wake Forest (Nov.4).
9. Cal plays at North Carolina in the season-opener for both teams on Sept. 2. That’s it if you’re looking for any kind of ACC-Pac-12 challenge. However, the ACC has at least three games against each of the other Power 5 conferences. Many are in-state games such as Georgia Tech vs. Georgia of the SEC and Pittsburgh vs. Penn State of the Big Ten. There is also the rekindling of a once-heated rivalry between Virginia Tech and West Virginia of the Big 12. The biggest one, at least for now, will be opening weekend in Atlanta when Florida State plays Alabama of the SEC. It’s likely both teams will have top-five preseason rankings — if not sitting at Nos. 1 and 2 — when kickoff arrives for the first game at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
10. Wake Forest’s first six weeks could define its season. The Deacons begin on Aug. 31 against Presbyterian of the FCS before playing at Quick Lanes Bowl winner Boston College. Wake Forest then plays 3-9 Utah State followed by a game at co-Sun Belt Conference champ Appalachian State. The next two weeks see the Deacons play Orange Bowl winner Florida State on Sept. 30 and an Oct. 7 game at national champ Clemson. They have the following week off.