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Looking at the 2020 ACC schedule through the eyes of SP+

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Because if anyone needed an easy schedule, it’s Clemson

Clemson v North Carolina State Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

So the ACC offices announced the modified 2020 Football schedule on Wednesday. That’s cool and all, but what does it mean? Well, we know wholeheartedly that numbers is bullshit, but for some laughs - and because I know you don’t have anything else to do - let’s use some to try and make some sense of the whole thing.

For our purposes here, we’re going to use the Projected 2020 SP+ ratings. Of course, these ratings aren’t perfect (none are), but they’re about as good as you can do, so we’re rolling with them. Here is how the ACC teams (plus Notre Dame) shape up in the 2020 SP+ projected ratings:

With the elimination of divisions, expansion to ten games, inclusion of Notre Dame, and extremely loose effort at minimizing travel, there are bound to be unbalanced conference schedules. Well, just how unbalanced?

A couple notes before we go any further: The win-loss records were calculated based on the same way that Bill Connelly does his projections, only without use of points-per-game for each team.

There was only one game that ended up dead even by SP+ calculation, which is the Notre Dame @ UNC game. Since UNC is the home team, I begrudgingly gave it to them in the hopes of jinxing the real life outcome of the game.

Okay, back to it...

The team with the weakest overall schedule by Total Opponent SP+ Rating is by pure luck and absolutely nothing else: North Carolina. The team with the hardest schedule by that same measure is Florida State, who gets to work that crazy tough slate while breaking in a new coaching staff. Always fun in the Sunshine State!

The Triangle-based schools (UNC, Duke, and NC State) have the three easiest schedules while Wake Forest trails only Florida State for the toughest. The ACC offices can’t show favoritism towards their home-state schools if they screw over one of them! Take that, Dave Clawson!

Okay, so yeah, I know what you’re thinking: “Clemson and their SP+ Rating of 27.0 is going to artificially inflate or deflate a team’s schedule, depending of if they play the Tigers or not.” Even if you were to replace Clemson’s 27.0 SP+ rating with the league average of 6.8 for those teams with the Tigers on their schedules, the ranking by Total Opponent SP+ wouldn’t change much. The teams with the six hardest schedules would all stay in the same order - and all six of those, as you’d guess, already have Clemson on the schedule. The biggest differences would be that Notre Dame goes from the 10th hardest schedule to the 15th (or easiest), Syracuse goes from the 8th to 12th hardest schedule, and Virginia Tech from 9th to 13th.

Even removing Clemson from everyone else’s schedules, UNC would still have the 2nd easiest conference slate. Go figure, right?

I can’t believe I’m going to waste the words on this (don’t hold this against me), but in UNC’s defense, they do play four of the five highest rated ACC teams, not including themselves. Same goes for Clemson, even though they are tied with just the 11th toughest schedule.

Okay, so what does it all mean? I promised you some insight... but I’m not going to deliver on that. Maybe the only conclusion is that including Notre Dame was the best move for the conference to bolster the overall strength of schedule in a weird 2020 season. Maybe it’s just that Clemson is going to skate to another ACC title. I don’t know.

I just hope we get to actually see this schedule play out... and that State can manage better than a 4-6 record while doing so.