Arizona Wildcats football potential future non-conference opponents: Atlantic Coast Conference

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The Arizona Wildcats’ football program, the only Pac-12 team without an opponent from the Power 5 conferences between 2015-2020, has six non-conference slots to fill in those six years.

Over the next few days, this site will look at potential teams from Power 5 conferences other than the Pac-12, who could play against the Wildcats. The other four conferences include the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 and SEC. Notre Dame is a major independent that will play five ACC opponents each year.

BYU is also an independent and it plays Arizona in 2016, 2018 and 2020. The Cougars have recently competed in the Mountain West and Western Athletic Conference.

Arizona might very well stick to a second-tier schedule with the thought that playing nine Pac-12 opponents is difficult enough. Wildcat fans and former players are not accustomed to that scheduling philosophy, however.

Since Arizona joined the Pac-12 in 1978, the Wildcats have experienced only seven of 37 seasons (including the upcoming 2014 slate) without playing regular season games against teams from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or SEC. That means teams from the other Power 5 conferences have been part of an astounding 81.1 percent of Arizona’s non-conference schedules from 1978 to now.

When Arizona plays UNLV, Texas-San Antonio (UTSA) and Nevada this year, it will mark only the second time since 1978 that the Wildcats have played consecutive seasons without facing a team from the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12 or SEC in the regular season. Arizona played NAU, UNLV and UTSA last season.


ARIZONA FOOTBALL FUTURE OPPONENTS (2015-2020)
*Glendale, Ariz.

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
9/5 UTSA 9/3 BYU* 9/9 Houston 9/1 BYU 8/31 at Hawaii 9/5 Hawaii
9/12 at Nevada TBA Grambling St. 9/16 at UTEP 9/8 at Houston TBD 9/12 at BYU
TBD TBD TBD 9/15 UTEP TBD TBD
Openings: 1 1 1 0 2 1


ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE OPENINGS (2015-2020)
Source: FBSchedules.com. Number in parenthesis is number of openings.

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Boston College (0) Boston College (2) Boston College (2) Boston College (2) Boston College (4) Boston College (3)
Clemson (0) Clemson (1) Clemson (3) Clemson (4) Clemson (4) Clemson (4)
Florida State (0) Florida State (2) Florida State (3) Florida State (3) Florida State (3) Florida State (3)
Louisville (0) Louisville (1) Louisville (3) Louisville (4) Louisville (4) Louisville (3)
N.C. State (1) N.C. State (2) N.C. State (2) N.C. State (4) N.C. State (3) N.C. State (3)
Syracuse (2) Syracuse (2) Syracuse (2) Syracuse (4) Syracuse (3) Syracuse (3)
Wake Forest (1) Wake Forest (1) Wake Forest (3) Wake Forest (2) Wake Forest (4) Wake Forest (3)
Duke (0) Duke (0) Duke (0) Duke (1) Duke (3) Duke (4)
Georgia Tech (1) Georgia Tech (1) Georgia Tech (2) Georgia Tech (1) Georgia Tech (2) Georgia Tech (1)
Miami (1) Miami (1) Miami (2) Miami (2) Miami (3) Miami (3)
N. Carolina (2) N. Carolina (3) N. Carolina (3) N. Carolina (2) N. Carolina (4) N. Carolina (4)
Pitt (1) Pitt (1) Pitt (2) Pitt (3) Pitt (2) Pitt (4)
Virginia (0) Virginia (0) Virginia (0) Virginia (2) Virginia (3) Virginia (3)
Virginia Tech (0) Virginia Tech (0) Virginia Tech (1) Virginia Tech (1) Virginia Tech (0) Virginia Tech (0)

The only other time this has happened is in the 2007 and 2008 seasons under Mike Stoops, who vowed to weaken schedules while at Arizona. The Wildcats played BYU, NAU and New Mexico in 2007 and Idaho, Toledo and New Mexico in 2008. Ironically, Arizona was 3-3 in those six games and was swept by New Mexico.

Dick Tomey never had a season in his 14 years (1987-2000) at Arizona in which he did not play at least one team from the Power 5 conferences in the regular season. Larry Smith, who coached at Arizona from 1980 to 1986, had only two such seasons in 1981 (Fullerton State, UTEP and Fresno State) and 1983 (Utah, Fullerton State and Colorado State). Utah was in the WAC in those days.


Between 1984 and 2006 — a span of 23 seasons — the Wildcats had only one season of playing only a second-tier non-conference schedule. That was in 2001 in John Mackovic’s first season in which Arizona faced San Diego State, Idaho and UNLV.

From 2007 to 2014 — only an eight-year span — Arizona will have played four seasons against only second-tier opponents.

ArizACC

That’s a drastic change in scheduling philosophy. Some fans love it because it might boost Arizona’s confidence and overall record, thereby improving the Wildcats’ chances of making a bowl. Others hate it because it could decrease the value of a season, inadequately prepare the Wildcats for the rigors of the Pac-12 and may affect ticket sales at Arizona Stadium.

Arizona has only one spot left to fill for 2015. The Wildcats already have scheduled games against UTSA and Nevada. If they fill the opening with another second-tier team, it will mark the first time they have played three straight regular seasons without facing a team from the ACC, Big Eight, Big 12 or SEC since they joined the Pac-12 in 1978.

This series is a look at potential opponents if Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne and football coach Rich Rodriguez try to add at least one opponent from the Power 5 conferences over the next six years starting in 2015.

ACC DATA

Arizona’s overall regular-season record against: 2-3

Last regular-season game: Arizona’s 20-19 win over visiting Georgia Tech on Sept. 7, 1995

Most played in regular season: Georgia Tech and Miami, two games each. Arizona is 2-0 against the Yellow Jackets and 0-2 against the Hurricanes in the regular season. Arizona lost a regular season game at Syracuse in 1969.

Never played in regular season: Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Louisville, North Carolina, N.C. State, Pitt, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.

Chances for scheduling an ACC team: Very slim. Only five regular-season games scheduled (and none in the last 19 years) in the history of the program indicates a lack of a natural fit. . . . Since 1954, Pac-12 and ACC teams have played only 36 regular-season games. That’s roughly only one game every 1.7 seasons.

Forget about it: Virginia Tech, which has never scheduled a home-and-home arrangement with a Pac-12 school, has only one opening in 2017 and 2018. . . . Florida State, which is 5-0 in regular-season games against the Pac-12, has not faced a team from the conference in the regular season since 1998 (USC).

Intriguing: Clemson, which has played only one regular-season game against a Pac-12 school (USC in 1966), has 16 non-conference slots to fill from 2016 to 2020. Rodriguez was Clemson’s offensive coordinator in 1999 and 2000. . . . Pitt has 13 openings from 2015-2020. Rodriguez and most of his staff are familiar with the Panthers having coached in the “Backyard Brawl” while at West Virginia. Assistant coaches Calvin Magee (co-offensive coordinator), Matt Caponi (safeties), Tony Dews (receivers), Lee Coleman (graduate assistant) and Matt Dudek (recruiting coordinator) have also worked at Pittsburgh.

ACC upcoming games vs. Pac-12: Virginia and UCLA begin a home-and-home series this year with the Bruins visiting Charlottesville in their season opener. Virginia returns the visit in 2015 in Pasadena, Calif. . . . The Cavaliers also complete a home-and-home with Oregon in 2016 with a trip to Eugene, Ore. The Ducks won at Virginia last season. . . . Virginia also has a home-and-home scheduled with Stanford in 2017 (Charlottesville) and 2018 (Palo Alto, Calif.). . . . Boston College, which lost at USC last year, hosts the Trojans on Sept. 13.

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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