The ACC finally released its conference schedule today, and here’s what Pitt’s slate looks like in the Panthers’ first season in their new conference. (Games in italics are non-conference games we already knew about).
Sept. 2 (Mon.) - Florida State, 8 p.m.
Sept. 14 - New Mexico
Sept. 21 - at Duke
Sept. 28 - Virginia
Oct. 12 - at Virginia Tech
Oct. 19 - Old Dominion
Oct. 26 - at Navy
Nov. 2 - at Georgia Tech
Nov. 9 - Notre Dame
Nov. 16 - North Carolina
Nov. 23 - at Syracuse
Nov. 29 (Fri.) - Miami
Dec. 7 - ACC Championship Game
The highlight there is obviously the primetime opener against the Seminoles at Heinz Field. It’s not exactly breaking news, as the game has been rumored for about a month now, but Pitt needed to work out some logistics (canceling the Villanova game and adding Old Dominion). It has been debated back and forth about the merits of playing this game to open the season, but put me in the group that’s in favor of it. Pitt will have a chance to make an early-season statement in their new conference and will generate plenty of positive buzz about the program both within Pittsburgh and in the college football world as a whole. That’s the only game on TV that night in an opening weekend where fans are always desperate for football. All eyes will be on that game, and the opportunity far outweighs any potential negatives.
For the rest of the schedule, it actually comes together really nicely with a big game at the beginning (Florida State), middle (Notre Dame) and end (Miami). The only weekday games are holidays, so that’s nice. No more Friday night kickoffs in East Hartford (Thank God). It might be a little less than desirable that Pitt is going eight straight weeks to end the regular season, when guys could use some time to rest up, but the bye week after Florida State is almost necessary to avoid the short week (see the 2012 Cincinnati game for evidence of that). All in all, this is about as compelling and well put together an ACC schedule as you could ask for.
Old Dominion is interesting because the Monarchs are a pretty good I-AA team. They rejoined Division I-AA in 2009, and have never lost more than three games in a season. Last year, they won the Colonial Athletic Association regular season title and made it to the NCAA quarterfinals. This season will be their last in Division I-AA before they move to I-A and Conference USA in 2014.
As usual, we won’t know game times until ESPN decides what they want to do a week or two before the game. I would anticipate fewer noon starts this year, both because of higher-profile games and the fact that the ACC Game of the Week kicks off at 12:30, instead of noon. I think there’s a very good chance the Notre Dame game is a night kickoff, especially if the Irish are anywhere close to as good as they were last year.
All in all, it’s really hard to ask for a more compelling schedule in Pitt’s first year in the ACC. There are marquee games well placed throughout the schedule, and interesting road trips to Atlanta, Blacksburg, Durham and Annapolis.