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The ACC once again plays favorites for Dabo Swinney and Clemson

John Swofford is not a dumb man.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 13 CFP National Championship - LSU v Clemson Photo by Todd Kirkland/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

ACC commissioner John Swofford is many things, but a dummy ain’t one of them.

The ACC is simply putrid. That’s nothing new. Over the past two decades, the ACC is a net 40-games below .500 against other P5 conferences, by far the worst of the major conferences.. In 2019, it was its usual cromulent self too — with the ACC going 6-14 against P5 teams (and Clemson having fully half of those OOC wins.). It is a conference that went 4-7 in bowl games and had an entire division ranked below the AAC West.

But, the basketball cache of the Tobacco Road monstrosity is such that you just sort of have to keep them around. And, since 1993, we’ve seen the same ole’ song and dance — one very good team, 11 (and now 13) munchkins.

So, what is a commissioner to do to keep that Power 5 gravy train rolling, even as its mediocre teams ring up losses in undeserved bowls, and middling viewership punctuates the landscape?

Why, you wait until the deadline passes for underclassmen to announce, and then you stack the deck in favor of the solitary team in the conference that is very good. Can’t accidentally let Dabo Swinney have a loss to well-rested Boston College, for instance!

And, friends, in a sport renowned for conference brass oft-playing favorites (looking at you Bob Bowlsby and Texas and Oklahoma), you will rarely find a deck stacked as much as the one the ACC handed Clemson today with its conference scheduling.

Let’s count the ways, shall we?

  • First, Clemson plays one team (and perhaps two), that will be ranked in the preseason — Notre Dame. Clemson received a bye before it faces the Irish in this de facto conference game. Wanna’ guess if Notre Dame receives such a bye? You’re right — they don’t.
  • The Tigers open their home conference schedule against the second team of any note — the Louisville Cardinals. Surprise! Owing to the holiday schedule, the ACC just happens to give the Tigers 9 days to prep for Scott Satterfield’s high-scoring unit! Yes, the Cards have a 9-day break as well, but, if there were any sort of difficulty curve, this one is heavily weighted for Brent Venables, who is a well-known wizard when given any extra time.
  • But, what about Virginia, you might ask? They could be ranked. They play the Tigers too. Indeed, the Cavs do — as the 4th game of a five-game opening swing that has no bye and includes Georgia and a road trip to Clemson.
  • And, we save the best for last: Clemson plays no ACC teams coming off a bye. Not one. I think we all know that familiarity not only breeds contempt, but when pared with an extra week of rest also breeds unexpected losses. The ACC took absolutely no chances on that happening this year. If the ACC is to have a rep in the big money Playoffs, then all the hopes of this league of has-beens, never-weres, dopey bagmen, and juiced up hayseeds are pinned upon the Clemson Tigers.

But. in this case, it’s not just preparation and talent that will be in the Tigers’ corner — it’s also the league office. And, you can just ask North Carolina how well that works out for you.