ACC dilemma: Do wins count more than competition?

BY foxsports • September 8, 2010

Next up for the ACC is Ohio State, Oklahoma and Southern California - more of college football's powerhouses.

The ACC - gaining a reputation as the Almost Competitive Conference - didn't win its first two matchups against the nation's elite, but had good showings: No. 13 Virginia Tech lost a thriller Monday against No. 3 Boise State; short-handed North Carolina came up a play short against No. 19 LSU.

No. 12 Miami, No. 17 Florida State and Virginia are looking to show the Atlantic Coast Conference can do more than just compete with football royalty Saturday when they play at the No. 2 Buckeyes, No. 10 Sooners and 16th-ranked Trojans, respectively.

But is the risk worth the reward?

Several ACC teams chose a less treacherous road, beating up on lower-division schools like Samford, South Carolina State and Western Carolina.

There is widespread disagreement about which method works best, considering there is little penalty in national rankings for playing a soft schedule, or reward for going against the best.

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, who for the third straight season has lost an opener against a high-profile opponent, says the early challenges help his club. Last year Beamer's bunch lost to eventual champion Alabama in their opener.

''We've won 10 games each of those also,'' said Beamer. ''In the long haul it makes you a better football team.''

Beamer also believes it's easier to prepare your team for the season when there's big game on the schedule to get it started.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said Wednesday he'd love to upgrade his nonconference schedule with home-and-home contracts with schools from the Big Ten and Big XII.

Texas coach Mack Brown said that would be great, but there is a little incentive.

''The way the system is set up, it does not send a message to you that you need them,'' Brown said. ''I would think strength of schedule should be a bigger part of it than it is.''

Many of his colleagues agree.

''I just don't feel the risk is worth the reward,'' said Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. ''A lot of people play four teams that are easy. You play your (backups) and you get ready just for your conference. I doubt many teams are penalized for that.''

Florida, a member of the rugged Southeastern Conference and winner of three national titles in the past 15 seasons, outscored nonconference opponents Charleston Southern, Troy, Florida International and Florida State by an overwhelming 217-22 last year on its way to a lucrative Sugar Bowl berth.

Florida State, Miami and Virginia will carry the ACC flag this weekend.

''You always want to play quality teams outside your conference,'' said Miami coach Randy Shannon, who still has nonconference games remaining against Pittsburgh and South Florida. ''I think it's good for your program and for your entire university.''

Miami hosts Ohio State next season when the Hurricanes also open a series with Kansas State. Miami begins a three-game series with Notre Dame in 2012 and are close to a deal to play a Big East school at Yankee Stadium in 2013.

''You come to Miami to play big games,'' Hurricanes running back Damien Berry said. ''Everyone wants to see us.''

Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher, who was an assistant coach in the SEC, is among those who feel there's more risk than reward playing a schedule without breathers.

''It does add some fun and excitement,'' conceded Fisher, who still has BYU and Florida on his nonconference ledger after Saturday's game at Oklahoma.

The Seminoles recently traded a future home-and-home series with Air Force for home games against Louisiana-Monroe and Football Championship Subdivision Murray State in 2011 and 2012. Fisher already has Oklahoma and Florida in two nonconference games next year while South Florida, Florida and West Virginia are scheduled in 2012.

Nebraska athletic director and former coach Tom Osborne likes to play at least one major intersectional nonconference opponent each season, but needs seven home games as well to help the Big Ten-bound Cornhuskers pay their bills.

And with the Big Ten talking about a nine-game league schedule beginning in 2015, Osborne's scheduling challenges become more difficult, especially in the years he'd have just four conference games at home.

''That means you're probably going to have to get at least a couple teams willing come to Lincoln without a return engagement,'' Osborne said. ''Certainly Alabama, Auburn, they're not going to do that.''

Osborne and Nebraska have two-for-one deals with several schools. Wyoming, Southern Miss and Fresno State have agreed to visit Lincoln twice in exchange for one game at their stadiums.

Florida State athletic director Randy Spetman would like a similar arrangement while occasionally playing a lower division opponent - the Seminoles pounded Samford Saturday.

''It helps them build their programs and we are able to help them supplement their budget,'' Spetman said of lower-division opponents. ''They do win some to these games and it brings tremendous credibility to their programs.''

Spetman also favors moving to a nine-game conference schedule instead of the current eight now employed by the ACC.

Beamer, however, pointed out that a ninth conference game ensures one more loss for half of the ACC schools, which could impact post season bowl opportunities.

But economics are also in play, especially for the athletic directors.

''It would sure make scheduling more simplified for us in the long run and save us money since you wouldn't have to go out and pay these big dollars to get (home) nonconference games,'' said Spetman, who last week signed a contract to pay Louisiana-Monroe $1.3 million to open the 2011 season in Tallahassee.

''It's gone up astronomically, and quickly,'' Spetman said. ''I'd like to find quality division one programs that would go home and home. We'll start to look at that in the future.''

Associated Press Sports Writers Eric Olson in Omaha, Jeff Latzke in Oklahoma City, Jim Vertuno in Austin, Pete Iacobelli in Columbia, S.C. and Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.

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