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Evaluating how many teams ACC can place in expanded CFP format

NS_headshot_clearbackgroundby:Nick Schultz05/15/24


Ralph Russo Full Interview with Andy Staples | State of College Football as a Whole | 05.15.24

In 2023, the ACC found itself shut out of the final four-team College Football Playoff. Florida State – despite its 13-0 record and conference title – came in at No. 5 in the final rankings, meaning the Seminoles headed to the Orange Bowl.

Things are going to change dramatically in 2024, though. The five highest-ranked conference champions will all appear in the field, meaning if the new 12-team format was around this past season, the ACC would’ve been represented after FSU defeated Louisville in Charlotte.

But as the CFP expands, the question will shift for the ACC. The question is no longer if a team will make it. That has an answer now. Instead, people will ask how many teams will play in the postseason, and the AP’s Ralph Russo said that’s where the conversation might begin with the conference.

“I think that’s always going to be the question about the ACC is depth and how many – once you get down to three, four, five, are you still talking about potential Playoff contenders?” Russo told Andy Staples on Andy Staples On3. “You know, the interesting thing to me, Andy, on all of this is when we started having these conversations about a 12-team Playoff, I think we were far more open-minded before realignment to the idea that, ‘Oh, there could be some real jostling between all the conferences.’ Sure, we think the SEC is always going to get an extra one because it tends to way things are with the SEC.

“But the ACC and the Big 12, I think that with realignment and establishing these imaginary or real dividing lines between these conferences, I think now, we’re wondering … is can the ACC consistently be in the mix for getting three? Do they even have to worry about getting a second team? And I think that’s the more disconcerting part.”

When it comes to maximizing College Football Playoff opportunities, Russo said ACC teams can start by bolstering their strength of schedules. According to ESPN, Florida State had the fifth-best strength of record in college football while Louisville ranked No. 21. However, FSU ranked No. 36 in strength of schedule, which was second in the league only to Georgia Tech.

With so many different schedule combinations, coupled with realignment shaking up the national picture, Russo said scheduling is becoming that much more important. But the conversation could then get murky when it comes time to compare records.

“This is why I’m saying that schedule conversation is not just going to be a conference vs. conference. … The fact of the matter is, not all the schedules are going to be created equal in these conferences,” Russo said. “The more you put teams into these conferences, you’re going to create not just imbalance from SEC to Big Ten to Big 12 to ACC, but imbalance within the conference.

“So if I’m a 9-3 team in the ACC with Clemson’s schedule, and I’m 10-2 team in the ACC with Virginia Tech or maybe Miami’s schedule, if I’m Clemson I’m like, whoa, whoa, whoa, what are we doing here? …. Even if we lose to Georgia, I can say, ‘It was 24-10, and that’s pretty good if you look at that Georgia team.’ Or maybe it was 24-17. ‘I understand we lost, but you’re comparing our 9-3 and that’s one of the three.’ that conversation is going to be much deeper and also, frankly, I think eventually it might lead to changes with the selection process.”