The ACC finally released its 2016 schedule. So, we can project forward with schedules to that season. Here are five teams that, on paper, should have a relatively easy time of it.
Tennessee has had tough schedules in years past. No excuses in 2016. A neutral site with Virginia Tech is their one real non-conference game. Florida and Alabama are in Knoxville. The Vols’ toughest game after October 15 is either (at) South Carolina or Missouri. Both are substantial question marks heading into the season. Maybe a Georgia or Texas A&M crops up as a good team. But, if Tennessee does not win the East against that schedule, it should disappoint.
Clemson has road trips to Auburn and to Florida State (does either have a quarterback?), but not much else. Their other three road games are Georgia Tech, Boston College, and Wake. That means tricky-ish games vs. Louisville, N.C. State, Pitt, and South Carolina are in Death Valley. If Deshaun Watson stays healthy, it’s hard not to project them back into the playoff. The schedule could breed 2015 Ohio State level-confidence entering the season.
Michigan’s non-conference slate is Hawaii, UCF, and Colorado at home. The Wolverines travel little. Nine games are in Michigan. Their longest flight is to two hours to Des Moines. The new QB will get time to settle. Wisconsin (home) looks like the only competitive game before heading to East Lansing Halloween weekend. Michigan must beat the two rivals on the road. But, if you’re on the Michigan playoff bandwagon, there’s not much to dissuade you here.
Iowa feasted on a soft schedule in 2015. 2016 may be more of the same. The Hawkeyes’ toughest non-conference game is Iowa State at home. Nebraska, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Northwestern come to Kinnick Stadium. Iowa’s most taxing road trip is…Penn State. A good Iowa team could make another great run. They may not be the best team in the West, but have to be considered the favorite.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame faces whatever is going on at Texas week one. The Irish have USC, after their heinous schedule, the final week. In between, they play one game (N.C. State) in an opposing team’s stadium. The toughest draw from the ACC may be Miami. Michigan State and Stanford come to South Bend, with new quarterbacks. Things could shake out differently. But, Notre Dame could be favored in every game it plays.