As the power five conferences discuss their future scheduling rules in the playoff era, there's a chance we'll see an unfamiliar sight — two conference opponents playing a non-conference game. According to ESPN, that's on the table for both the ACC and the Big Ten.
ACC schools considering having non-conference games vs. other ACC teams, ADs/coaches tell @ESPN— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) May 14, 2014
… Penn State AD Joyner said some discussion about playing B1G opponents in non-con games. Former Mich AD Martin proposed this years ago.— ESPN Big Ten (@ESPN_BigTen) May 13, 2014
This isn't a new concept. The suggestion has been thrown around the most in the SEC, where people have suggested that Auburn-Georgia and Tennessee-Alabama become non-conference games in years the non-division rivals don't appear on each other's conference schedules. However, this is the first time the concept appears to have received so much consideration.
The ACC announced yesterday that it will stick with an eight-game conference schedule in its 14-team league — so teams will only play two cross-division games a year — but teams also will be required to play either Notre Dame (which will play five ACC teams a year) or another major conference team in non-conference season. Another ACC team would apparently fill that requirement.
"I think all the coaches felt like playing each other more, if there was a model for that, we'd be open to it," NC State coach Dave Doeren said. "They are going to allow us to use that plus-one game in the conference as a nonconference game so that will be interesting to see where it goes. When we don't have to play Notre Dame, playing Duke or Virginia or somebody from the Coastal that we don't play will be a discussion we want to have."
There's a legitimate argument that it's better for NC State fans to see NC State-Duke instead of NC State-Kansas, but the bigger worry seems to be that schools are going to be reluctant to play ACC teams in non-conference games. Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten schools already are limited by nine-game schedules, because realistically, many won't play more than one home-and-home with fellow major-conference schools each year, and only a handful will play two.
In the ESPN article linked above, Miami athletic director Blake James was candid about the struggle to find tough non-conference games.
"It's going to be more challenging to find nonconference games," James said. "A conference like the SEC doesn't want to play us. Florida has Florida State, so we're not going to have an opportunity to play them."
The Hurricanes still need to find an opponent to meet the requirement in 2017 — the first year the rule goes into effect — but are set from 2018-2021, with home-and-homes against Rutgers and Michigan State.
Is this good for the game? That's a matter of personal opinion. I'd probably rather see Ohio State-Wisconsin than Ohio State-Kansas, and the same goes for Florida State-Virginia Tech over Florida State-Purdue. But the downside to all of this is that rules designed to get power conference teams to play each other more might ironically lead to more regional play than ever.