Note: I apologize for the table formatting. Still trying to figure out the kinks of this blogging software. I promise I'm working to make them more readable.
We learned this morning that Pitt will round out its 2013 non-conference schedule with a game against New Mexico Sept. 14. The Panthers' other three nonconference games are Villanova (8/31, home), Navy (10/26, away) and Notre Dame (11/9, home). First of all, I like that the non-conference games are spaced out, rather than front-loaded at the beginning of the season since it mixes up the schedule a little bit more into late October and November. The Notre Dame game, in particular, has the chance to be a great one at Heinz Field. The Irish could come into Heinz Field as defending national champions, will probably be highly-ranked, and Pitt will certainly be anxious for revenge after this year's heartbreak in South Bend.
Pitt's remaining eight games will become finalized when the ACC announces its league schedule. An ACC spokesperson told me today that the league usually releases its composite schedule in February, and that should be the case this year. So, with over a month to wait, I wondered if there was a way to piece together a theoretical 2013 ACC schedule based on information we already have. Bear with me, things might get a bit complicated.
First, let's start with this document. Back in 2004, the ACC released its schedule pairings through 2015. I'm sure that seemed like a good idea at the time. The structure back then, with 12 teams, was FIVE divisional games, ONE protected rivalry crossover, and TWO rotating crossovers. Next year, with 14 teams and, remember, still only eight conference games, the format will be SIX divisional games, ONE protected rivalry crossover and ONE rotating crossover.
Now, we're working with the assumption that the ACC would like as much continuity as possible. That is, avoiding repeat matchups from this season and sticking with the original 2004 plan whenever possible.
So, let's fill in the seven opponents we know for each team next season (we'll get to the rotating crossover in a second). We'll take the home and away pairings from that original 2004 document, and leave Pitt and Syracuse's blank for now.
Now let's go through that table again and start adding a couple of things. I think it's safe to say that, for simplicity's sake, it makes sense for the ACC to go with a 3 road/3 home split for a team's six divisional games. Also, for Pitt, I'm going to assume the ACC will work with the Panthers and have them play AT Virginia Tech and HOME against Syracuse, just to avoid repeat matchups from this season. So, if we take that in and go with the 3-3 split, we can work out the home/road splits for these games (changes are highlighted)...
So there you have it, Pitt's home ACC opponents in 2013 should (emphasis, SHOULD) be Virginia, UNC, Miami and Syracuse. Their road games will be at Georgia Tech, at Duke and at Virginia Tech. But what about that rotating crossover opponent, you might be asking? Ah, well let's take a look there. With eight conference games, each team is going to need four home and four away contests. Going from what we have above, we can determine which teams need a home crossover game and which teams need another road game. The following teams need a HOME game from their rotating crossover game: Clemson, Wake Forest, Boston College, Syracuse, Virginia, North Carolina and Miami. The following teams need a ROAD game from their crossover game: Maryland, North Carolina State, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Duke, Virginia Tech and Pitt.
Here it is broken down by division in chart form (Teams in BLUE need a home game, while teams in RED need another road game):
So it pairs up quite nicely. Now let's try and pair these teams up. We can eliminate some matchups right away. Looking at the Coastal teams that need home games, UNC cannot play NC State since the two are already crossover rivals, and the Tar Heels hosted Maryland this season. So we'll put FSU @ UNC on the schedule. Virginia cannot play Maryland, since the two are crossover rivals, so we can pencil in NC State @ Virginia. That leaves us with Maryland @ Miami as the final pair. The Terps and 'Canes played a home-and-home in 2010 and 2011, so it's not perfect, but it'll do.
Now let's look at the Atlantic teams that need home games. Duke @ Clemson and Ga. Tech @ BC are both matchups on the original '04 document, so we can leave those in. That leaves Wake and Syracuse needing visitors. Obviously, Syracuse cannot play Pitt again, so we can add in Va. Tech @ Syracuse. That leaves Pitt traveling to Wake Forest for its crossover game in 2013. So here's the final scheduling grid we get from that.
Pitt's 2013 schedule then, without dates, would look like this:
That's not a terrible home slate. Notre Dame, North Carolina and Miami are all at least interesting draws, and Syracuse is a decent traditional rival. Road trips to Atlanta and Blacksburg aren't too shabby either. There's no Florida State or Clemson, but those two schools will only rotate through every so often.
Remember, though, this is merely an educated guess on my part. The ACC could very well decide to blow up its scheduling matrix and start over with a new 14-team model. They could also totally reshuffle the rotating crossover opponents (Pitt @ Clemson is a game that could happen, for example). The ACC's scheduling model will also likely change whenever Notre Dame starts its conference rotation (probably 2014), so the league could come up with a new matrix this offseason to accomodate the Irish in two years.
There are also other factors to be taken into account, like TV schedules and weeknight games. But, if the league sticks to its original model, this grid is probably close to what the 2013 schedule will look like.