The 2022 college football schedule in the ACC will be the last of its kind. It's the final year of the league being split into the Atlantic Division and Coastal Division, as the conference will move into a newthat has every school paired with three permanent rivals and a five-game rotation through the rest of the conference over a two-year span. It's a move that will allow the entire conference to play each other more often and, in theory, bring a little more balance to the conference championship race.
None of that goes into place until 2023, however, leaving us one more year to complain about divisional imbalance and rate the easiest and toughest draws in the conference. Traditionally, the complaints of schedule imbalance have come from the Atlantic Division, where the presence of Clemson and Florida State have created an uphill battle for the rest of the division when it comes to the pursuit of a conference championship. The Coastal Division, on the other hand, had seven different division champs across seven seasons from 2013-19. It provided plenty of intrigue with fans who enjoyed the "Coastal Chaos," but also gave the appearance that it was the easier path to the ACC Championship Game.
Though 2021 Wake Forest snapped Clemson and Florida State's 12-year run of having either the Tigers or the Seminoles in the ACC Championship Game, the Atlantic Division looks like the tougher side of the standings once again for its final year of existence. Four of the top six teams in our ACC strength of schedule rankings are from the Atlantic, and four of the six most favorable schedules in the league from the Coastal. But we begin our rankings with an outlier, the Coastal Division team, which for rivalry reasons is always going to show up with one of the toughest schedules in the country.
|Geoff Collins is under plenty of pressure heading into 2022 after three straight three-win seasons to start his tenure. Georgia Tech has Clemson as its cross-division rival — and it will continue to face the Tigers as a permanent rival in the 3-5-5 format — then finishes every season against Georgia in "Clean, Old Fashioned Hate." Those annual challenges are now joined by Ole Miss and UCF (in Orlando) in the nonconference, Florida State as a rotating cross-division opponent and four road games across the final five weeks of the season.|
|The Seminoles are right there with Georgia Tech on a different tier when it comes to strength of schedule. Miami and Florida are on the slate every year, and in 2022 Mike Norvell will also lead this team to face LSU in New Orleans and host reigning Sun Belt champion Louisiana in Tallahassee. It helps that Florida and Louisiana are home games, but the conference draw has three key ACC games (Louisville), Miami, NC State all away from home for Florida State.|
|Expectations are high for Mario Cristobal's first year as Miami's head coach, but the schedule is tough enough that even a full season of near-peak performance could leave the Hurricanes with a couple of losses at season's end. Miami draws a late season road trip to Clemson in the final year of cross-division rotation and plays the front end of a two-year deal with Texas A&M in College Station in September. In between, there are more than a handful of games in which Miami will be favored, but there's another trap lying on the other side of the Clemson game with Pitt coming to visit in the regular-season finale seven days after the trip to Death Valley.|
|Clemson's strength of schedule rating is going to have a deficit when compared to the rest of the conference because Clemson can't play Clemson, and thus the Tigers "avoid" the toughest opponent in the ACC. Still, this is a top-half schedule in the league thanks to Miami rotating in from the Coastal Division and a late-season road trip to Notre Dame. Also, considering how Shane Beamer exceeded expectations in 2021, the regular-season finale with South Carolina could take on more intrigue in the near future, but it's still a matchup that heavily tilts Clemson's way in 2022.|
|Notre Dame's partial membership with the ACC is going to boost the nonconference slate for a handful of teams every year, and Syracuse is one of the teams getting that treatment in 2022. Annual cross-division foe Pitt is a road game, and it sits at the end of a brutal stretch of four games in four weeks that also includes NC State, Clemson and Notre Dame. The Power Five nonconference foe of Purdue is not favorable given expectations for the Boilermakers, but at least that game is at home.|
|While recruiting wins have brought some positive offseason headlines and excitement around the program, the schedule provides enough challenges to put a ceiling on expectations for the fall. Louisville's annual rivalry against Kentucky is on the road, as is its second-toughest nonconference game against UCF. The cross-division Coastal Division rival happens to be the reigning ACC Champion, Pitt. Flipping close losses to close wins sets up the Cardinals to flirt with eight or nine wins, but they'll have to be road warriors to get to that kind of finish.|
|Every ACC team is required to play at least one Power Five foe in the nonconference portion of the schedule, but not every team is going to line up two like Pitt has with West Virginia and Tennessee. However, that's not nearly as punishing as it could be with both the renewal of the Backyard Brawl and the sequel to last season's thriller against the Vols taking place at home in Heinz Field. In conference, the draw is not particularly kind. While Pitt avoids Clemson, it does face three of its toughest ACC opponents (Miami, North Carolina, Louisville) on the road.|
|It's not ideal to have toss-up games against Virginia Tech and Florida State on the road, nor is it favorable to Boston College's bowl push to play NC State and Notre Dame on the road in back-to-back weeks in November. But the presence of Maine, UConn and even Rutgers provide enough winnable nonconference games to give the Eagles a good shot at finishing with six wins.|
|The metrics don't grade out North Carolina's schedule as a whole as one of the toughest in the ACC, but there's an argument that the Tar Heels have one of the more challenging September slates in the league. After a Week Zero opener against Florida A&M, North Carolina has back-to-back nonconference road games against Appalachian State and Georgia State before returning to Chapel Hill to host Notre Dame. The Tar Heels are possibly favored in both of those road trips to Sun Belt territory, but they are not guaranteed wins.|
|The nonconference slate (ECU, Charleston Southern, Texas Tech, UConn) looks like four wins, and while the Wolfpack have their annual meeting with Clemson on the road this year, there are other favorable advantages on the schedule. Florida State, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College would all be dangerous road foes, but all four of those games are going to be at Carter-Finley Stadium.|
|In avoiding Clemson and NC State, Mike Elko's first year as the Blue Devils' head coach won't include some of the tougher cross-division opponents, and this is not a year when Duke rotates on as one of Notre Dame's ACC opponents. Northwestern and Kansas also project as less-challenging Power Five options compared to the field, but it should be noted both teams will be better than they were in 2021 and both of those games will be on the road. Duke has one of the more manageable schedules in the ACC, but compared to expectations of the team, it's not an easy road to bowl eligibility for Elko in Year 1.|
|If Tony Elliott can turn Scott Stadium into an impactful home field advantage in 2022, the Wahoos are poised to be a chaos team in the ACC Coastal Division race. Miami, Pitt and North Carolina all visit Charlottesville in consecutive weeks, part of a run that will keep Virginia in the confines of the Commonwealth for every game from Oct. 29 until the end of the season.|
|There are some situational challenges in division play unique to Wake Forest based on the last 5-10 years, notably beating NC State in Raleigh or Clemson anywhere, but as a whole this sets up for Dave Clawson to finish with at least eight wins for the third time in four years. The nonconference has VMI, Vanderbilt, Liberty and Army, and the cross-division draws are North Carolina (at home) and Duke (on the road). Both of those cross-division games are part of a November slate that will keep the Demon Deacons in the state of North Carolina for the entire month.|
|Old Dominion, Wofford and Liberty provide opportunities for the Hokies to have a nice floor for success, needing only a couple of wins against ACC opponents to be bowl eligible in Year 1 under Brent Pry. It helps that toss-up games against Boston College, West Virginia, Georgia Tech and Virginia are all going to be in Blacksburg, and that Clemson and Notre Dame are nowhere to be found on the schedule.|