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Who has the toughest schedule in the ACC? Recently, the same names have shown up at the top of our annual strength of schedule rankings, but the 2023 season offers a few wrinkles in the conference that have shaken up the order. Or, at the very least, those wrinkles have provided some unique changes to schedule analysis. 

As the ACC ditches divisions, the days of Atlantic division teams facing tougher schedules based on the guarantee of playing Clemson and Florida State — two programs that have combined to win 12 of the 18 titles in the ACC Championship Game era — are done. 

The nonconference slate is loaded with the likes of LSU, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, two games against South Carolina, six games against Notre Dame and, of course, the annual in-state rivalry matchups that bring Georgia, Florida and Kentucky into the fold. 

It's not just about who you play, though, rather when and where those games take place. So we added in home-and-away splits and the rhythm of a season (like when your off week falls) to assemble a ranking of the ACC's schedules from toughest to easiest.

2023 ACC Strength of Schedule Rankings
Even in the post-division era, the Yellow Jackets must face both Clemson and Georgia on an annual basis. Those two programs have combined to play in seven of the last eight national title games. This year, they also have the back end of a series with Ole Miss and a conference schedule that includes North Carolina, Miami and Louisville. That season opener against the Cardinals will be played in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which leaves Georgia Tech with just three true home games in conference play.
The massive hype and expectations surrounding the Seminoles will be put to the test right away with games against LSU and Clemson in the first four weeks of the season. Unfortunately for Florida State, neither of those contests occur within the friendly confines Doak Campbell Stadium. Additionally, there are potential road traps at Wake Forest and Pitt leading into the rivalry game against Miami. To top that all off, the 'Noles have a trip to Gainesville to take on rival Florida in the regular-season finale. The Seminoles have more depth than they've had in years, but getting to double-digit wins will be tougher than it was in 2022.
Duke's annual Atlantic dvision rival in the previous scheduling model was Wake Forest, which meant meetings against Clemson and Florida State were infrequent additions to the slate. This year, the Blue Devils draw arguably the four strongest programs from that former Atlantic division side: Clemson, Florida State, NC State and Louisville. Throw in a date with Notre Dame and Mike Elko is facing a scenario where the team could be better than it was during last year's nine-win campaign but end up with a worse final record.
The Demon Deacons are set up to start 4-0 or 3-1 heading into an early off week on Sept. 30, but then the final eight weeks will be a bear. The backloaded slate includes Clemson, Florida State, NC State and Pitt in conference play, and the schedule wraps up with with back-to-back road games at Notre Dame and Syracuse. All of the toughest opponents, some in tricky spots such as playing a toss-up game against Duke on a short turnaround from facing Florida State, make this a difficult draw for Wake Forest.
It's at this point where I think the six teams between No. 5 and No. 10 in our rankings are almost interchangeable. They all have some high-end difficulty and also a couple of games that make those challenging spots seem more manageable. For example, Clemson has Notre Dame, Florida State and North Carolina on the schedule, but all three of those games are at home. There is a tricky back-to-back road trip at Miami and at NC State in October, but the Tigers get their off week just before that. Ultimately, playing the annual South Carolina game on the road tipped the scales to push Clemson up to No. 5.
Drake Maye and the Tar Heels were road warriors in 2022, going 6-0 in true road games. They'll need that energy again in 2023 with challenging dates at Clemson, NC State and Pitt in conference play. The nonconference schedule also features three tough opponents in the first three weeks of the season. UNC plays South Carolina in Charlotte, then hosts Appalachian State and Minnesota. Though North Carolina will be favored in many games (in part because of having the best quarterback in the conference), the margin for error will be slim.
The Orange really need some injury luck early because arguably the toughest games on the schedule -- Clemson, at North Carolina and at Florida State -- come before the team finally gets a week off on Oct. 21. If Syracuse can manage that difficult stretch, the back half of the schedule is favorable. The Orange also give up a true conference home game in 2023, hosting Pitt at Yankee Stadium.  
The nonconference slate features three power conference opponents, one of which is Notre Dame on the road. Still, it's not quite as daunting as it might appear at first glance as Pitt also draws Cincinnati and West Virginia -- both of which are expected to finish in the bottom half Big 12. The Panthers will have to play Florida State and North Carolina in conference play, but both of those games are at home. Pitt also avoids Clemson, providing even more good news.
This is a top-heavy slate with Clemson, Florida State and Texas A&M doing a lot of work to give the Hurricanes a decent strength of schedule rating. North Carolina, Louisville and NC State should provide this talented Miami roster some comparable opponents in conference play, but the bottom of the schedule serves as a nice cushion. Georgia Tech, Virginia and Boston College are favorable matchups, and the nonconference has Miami (OH), Bethune-Cookman and Temple.
Carter-Finley Stadium is one of the best home field environments in the ACC, and NC State will have an opportunity to lean on that advantage as the roster undergoes some real transition. Clemson, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Miami and Louisville make for a really tough top tier of opponents, but those matchups are at home in Raleigh.
The ACC schedule did second-year coach Tony Elliott more favors than his own athletic department as Virginia does not have to face Clemson or Florida State in conference play. The Wahoos do, however, have to play Tennessee in Nashville,Tennessee, Maryland in College Park and host in-state nonconference games against James Madison (a top-half team in the Sun Belt) and William & Mary (a team that went 11-2 last year and reached the FCS quarterfinals).
Yes, the Hokies avoid both Clemson and North Carolina, but the schedule includes two Power Five teams and two regional rivals that will not lay down quietly. Granted, those power conference opponents are Rutgers and Purdue, but the Hokies have not been through enough cycles of roster rebuilding to look down their nose at a Big Ten foe, no matter where they sit in the standings.
Louisville fans will get plenty of chances to see their team during Year 1 one the Jeff Brohm era. The Cards play just three true road games all year thanks to neutral-site dates against Georgia Tech (Atlanta) and Indiana (Indianapolis) -- both manageable traveling distance from Louisville. The Cardinals also miss Clemson, Florida State and North Carolina and catch the entire favorable four pack of Virginia, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and Boston College.
A nonconference slate of Army, UConn, NIU and Holy Cross give Jeff Hafley a great chance of a return to bowl eligibility. The Eagles also avoid Clemson and get a pair of comparable conference opponents (Virginia, Virginia Tech) at home.