Friedlander: Highlights (and lowlights) from ACC football schedule reveal
The ACC could have waited until after basketball season to announce its 2023 football schedule. Or at the very least, it could have waited for a night in which none of its teams were playing an important conference basketball game.
Instead, the league chose to do it Monday, distracting attention away from a competitive, entertaining battle between Virginia and Syracuse.
If that wasn’t bad enough, it dragged the reveal out over 2 hours on an awkward, slow-moving ACC Network broadcast whose highlight – or in this case lowlight – was former Miami coach Mark Richt calling fellow panel member Roddy Jones a “little fart.”
Host Jordan Cornette added to the trainwreck by mistakenly saying that Wake Forest is located in North Carolina’s Triangle.
But at least the schedule is out and we know who will be playing where and when in 2023.
Here are some of the things to look forward to:
2023 ACC Football Schedule. ⬇️
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— ACC Football (@ACCFootball) January 31, 2023
Long Labor Day weekend
If the long offseason has you suffering from withdrawal symptoms, you won’t have to wait long to get your fill of football. For the 5th time in the past 7 years, the ACC is spreading the opening week of the season over 5 days surrounding the Labor Day holiday.
The marathon begins on Thursday Aug. 31 with Wake Forest playing Elon before Louisville takes on Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game and Miami takes on its namesake from Ohio on Friday, Sept. 1.
It will mark the 2nd straight year in which the Yellow Jackets open the season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. While the Cardinals are hardly a pushover, they’ll be a much less challenging assignment than last year, when Tech drew eventual league champion Clemson.
Saturday’s schedule is highlighted by the Duke’s Mayo Classic between North Carolina and South Carolina in Charlotte, and Virginia’s showdown with Tennessee in Nashville. Boston College, NC State, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Virginia Tech are also on the schedule against lesser nonconference opponents.
Florida State and LSU will meet at a neutral site on Labor Day Sunday for the 2nd year in a row, this time in Orlando, while Clemson and Duke will put an exclamation point on the opening week by meeting on Monday night in Durham.
Championship game preview?
Defending champion Clemson and up-and-coming Florida State are the likely preseason favorites to meet in the ACC title game at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 2.
But we won’t have to wait that long to see the Tigers and Seminoles play each other. The former Atlantic Division rivals will square off at Death Valley in Week 4, on Saturday, Sept. 23.
If they do, in fact, end up with the 2 best records in the league and meet again in Charlotte, the early date of their regular season matchup means that both will have plenty of time to grow and evolve before the rematch a full 2 1/2 months later.
Homecoming games will take on a new meaning around the ACC this season, thanks to 3 high-profile quarterback transfers who by the luck of the draw are scheduled to face their former teams.
The first will take place in prime time on national television when Brennan Armstrong returns to Scott Stadium wearing NC State red against his former Virginia teammates on Friday night, Sept. 22. It will be the ACC opener for both teams.
Eight weeks later on Nov. 18, Wake Forest will get a taste of what its opponents for the past 4 seasons have had to face when it travels to Notre Dame for a reunion with its former record-setting passer Sam Hartman, who now plays for the Irish.
That same weekend, Pittsburgh’s Phil Jurkovec will reacquaint himself with his former team, Boston College in a Thursday night game. It will be the 2nd leg of what amounts to a nostalgia tour for Jurkovec, who will also take on his original college team, Notre Dame, in South Bend on Oct. 28.
No favors for the Tar Heels
Here’s 1 for all those who believe that the ACC goes out of its way to take care of North Carolina. This year’s schedule gives no favors to the Tar Heels. Coach Mack Brown gave a hint of what was to come earlier in the day Monday, telling reporters that he was disappointed in the schedule his team was handed.
“I told them I didn’t like it,” he said. “I didn’t think it was fair.”
It starts with a 3-game stretch against South Carolina in Charlotte, followed by home games against Appalachian State and Minnesota. The most brutal stretch, however, comes at the end. In order to avoid the late-season collapse they encountered in 2022, the Tar Heels will have to do it against Duke at home, then Clemson and NC State on the road in the final 3 weeks.
On the plus side, UNC will only play 4 true road games – only 1 of which, Sept. 23 at Pittsburgh, will come before the first 8 weeks of the season.
2 rivalry weeks
The final week of the regular season is always reserved for the traditional rivalries. And this year is no different. Clemson-South Carolina, Florida State-Florida, Georgia Tech-Georgia, Louisville-Kentucky, UNC-NC State and the Commonwealth Cup showdown between Virginia and Virginia Tech are all set for Week 13.
But that’s not the only rivalry week on the schedule.
Among the games scheduled for Nov. 11 are Miami at Florida State, Duke at UNC and NC State at Wake Forest. Also that day, Pittsburgh and Syracuse will play one another at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. The matchup is a centennial celebration of the first football game played at the old Yankee Stadium – a 3-0 Orange victory against the Panthers on Oct. 20, 1923.
Speaking of rivalries … NC State and Duke are located only about 30 miles apart as the crow flies. But they’ve been eons apart in football since the ACC went to divisional play in 2005. The Wolfpack and Blue Devils have only met 5 times since then and only once since State’s last trip to Wallace Wade Stadium in 2013.
That’s about to change now that the league has scrapped the Atlantic and Coastal divisions. The teams have been designed as primary partners that will play each other every year moving forward under the ACC’s new 3-5-5 scheduling format. They’ll play at Duke for the 1st time in a decade on Saturday, Oct. 14.
The downside of the new format, at least for State, is that another rival – Wake Forest – isn’t a permanent partner. The Wolfpack and Deacons will play one another for the 111th consecutive year this season and again in 2024. But after that, the second-longest continuous series in college football will come to an end.
Notre Dame won’t be eligible to play for the ACC championship, as it did during the COVID season of 2022. But with 6 games against conference teams, the Irish will be only 2 short of playing a full league schedule this season.
That’s not necessarily good news for their ACC opponents. Notre Dame has won 28 consecutive regular-season games against conference teams dating to 2017. Its only ACC loss during that stretch came in that 2020 league championship game.
NC State will get the first crack at ending the frustration when the Irish come to Carter-Finley Stadium for the Wolfpack’s home-opener on Sept. 9. The most anticipated matchup will come on Nov. 4 when the Irish travel to Death Valley to take on Clemson in a game that could potentially have College Football Playoff implications.
The other ACC-Notre Dame matchups are at Duke on Sept. 30, at Louisville on Oct. 7, and home dates against Pitt on Oct. 28 and Wake Forest on Nov. 18.
Other marquee matchups against Power 5 competition include Florida State-LSU on Sept. 3 and Texas A&M at Miami on Sept. 9, along with Pittsburgh at West Virginia and UNC-Minnesota on Sept. 16.
In all, ACC teams will play 25 games against Power 5 opponents, with 11 nonconference matchups against teams ranked in the final 2022 Associated Press poll.