For ACC, parity comes at a price: no CFP appearance

For ACC, parity comes at a price: no CFP appearance

Pittsburgh Pat Nardozy still can’t make up his mind.

Back in July, the Pittsburgh coach had long believed that the final college football game should stand at four teams. Now, with the 20th-ranked Panthers confirming a place in the ACC title game after the Coastal Division title wrapped up, he’s not sure.

“It just went back and forth,” Nardozzi said.

For good reason. For the first time since the College Football Playoff launched in 2014, ACC will be out when the finals are revealed on December 5 no matter who leaves the field in Charlotte the night before with the League Championship trophy in tow, regardless of whether it’s Panthers, Wake Forest or Clemson or NC State.

All four enter the final weekend of the regular season with at least two losses. All four are outside the CFP top 10 with only two weeks left.

While the wide open nature of the ACC in 2021 may be good for the league in the long run – the coaches’ ability to go into the recruiter’s living room and pitch the idea of ​​playing in a league where the championship isn’t a birthright of Clemson. But a realistic and tangible goal for many schools – in the short term, parity comes at a price. In the literal and figurative sense.


The ACC will receive a modest $2 million for not putting a team into the CFP. Nor will it reap the benefits of the weeks-long hype machine leading up to the semifinals on New Years Eve and the perception that it is either in the middle of a “downside” year or simply not so good at all, which has held back the PAC-12’s unfamiliarity, must now be combated. Significantly stoichiometric in most periods of CFP presence.

Expanding the playoffs to at least eight teams, with winners in each of the Power Five Conference tournaments receiving an automatic bid regardless of their record, would make a manual dispute over ACC’s status moot.

“I think (the expansion) opens things up for the other teams to have a chance to be involved in the (match) conversation for sure,” he said.

The conversation took place – for this year at least – largely as the ACC failed to get a word on the edge.

Clemson’s early-season struggles tossed their entire way out of the top 25 for the first time in seven years. Wake Forest’s flirtation for a perfect season has returned to Earth after losses to North Carolina and North Carolina. Pete’s resume includes a confirmed home win over the Tigers but also a baffling home loss to Western Michigan in September that tempered any thoughts of shattering the CFP.


North Carolina was the pre-season favorite in the coastal division. Now the Tar Heels need to beat the Wolfpack on Saturday to avoid the 0.500 season. Coach Mac Browne welcomes the league’s unpredictability in 2021 but hopes it will only be one time.

“We need to get it back as the winner goes to the play-off,” Brown said. “And that is going to be really important to us but Clemson has to stay strong. The rest of us need to keep moving forward.”

Whether you are disqualified from the CFP – at least in its current form – is a traffic light or a trend that will not be known for at least another year. However, the Tigers, who have racked up four straight victories since falling to Pete on October 23, fully expect their issues to be turned into a weapon in their enlistment path.

“Obviously, I think people will try to passively recruit against it, but we’re not worried about that,” said Clemson attack coordinator Tony Elliott. “Once people get here on campus, they’ll feel, see and understand why we’re built to win championships in the long run.”


The Tigers still have a chance to get a little revenge on the Panthers and lock up the Six Powell for the New Year. Losses to Wake Forest and NC State this weekend would give Clemson a seventh consecutive title in the Atlantic Division, something that seemed unlikely a month ago.

Yes, it’s weird that Tigers look at the CFP rankings and don’t see the familiar orange claw crest near the top.

“He’s leading us more than ever,” wide receiver Bo Collins said. “This season has been a good learning experience for us, coach (Dabo) Sweeney too. He told us he hasn’t coached a team this hard in a while. So it just supports us for next season and the years to come.”

The same goes for Pete. The Panthers broke free from a treadmill that saw the program fluctuate between 5-8 wins during Narduzzi’s tenure. A win in Syracuse on Saturday would give Pete 10 wins during the regular season for the first time in 40 years.


However, Nardese can’t help but think of “what if”. The loss that his team lost came with a combined seven points. If Pete’s defense against western Michigan and Miami doesn’t collapse, perhaps the Panthers will be perfect and claim a place in the CFP.

They’re not, but they’re closer than they’ve ever been. Deto’ Wake Forest and North Carolina. This is progress. Perhaps in a few years, all the political maneuvering and nervousness that accompany the play-off will be gone.

“Let’s gradually move to (team coordination) 12 if we’re going to do that, just to make sure you don’t screw it up,” he said. “Once you go up to 12, you can’t go back to 8. I think that will go back up.”

Something the ACC did this season in hopes of making a giant leap forward collectively down the road.


Associated Press sports writers Aaron Bird, Hank Kurtz Jr., Charles Odom, John Kikes and Pete Iacobelli contributed to this report.


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