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Did Syracuse Strategically Ask For Florida State as a Rival?

The ACC did something extremely smart. It ripped up the old two division format, and created a 3-5-5 scheduling system for football. Instead of a winner coming from the Atlantic and Coastal to meet in the ACC Championship Game, the two best teams in the league will clash. To schedule a one-division league, each team will have three annual rivals. Then play the other 10 schools over a two-year period. So 3 rivals, then 5 conference games each year.

It accomplishes plenty. It means each school will play every other school in the league in two year increments. So players won’t miss out on a big opponent during the life of their career. And a mediocre team won’t end up in Charlotte just because it won a bad division. The top two teams in the conference will head to the title game. This starts in ’23 and runs for four seasons.

SU will play every school twice within this window. But as seen in the chart above, it will also have annual games against Boston College, Pitt and Florida State. The rivalry games against BC and Pitt are logical. They’re all old Big East brethren, representing larger cities in the north and northeast. But FSU? How does the Orange pull the Seminoles instead of Big East foes Virginia Tech, Louisville or Miami? SU has no history with Florida State and is a 19-hour drive.

The Hokies could have SU instead of Wake Forest. Louisville doesn’t need Georgia Tech. Miami’s Boston College connection seems thin at best. Any of them have an open slot that makes SU seem far more logical. The answer may lie in recruiting. If we believe Miami and BC have enough of a history from the ’80s and ’90s to keep playing (and are the 2 largest media markets in the league), it means the only Florida opening for SU is the Seminoles.

The biggest hurdle for Syracuse becoming a perennial winner in football has been the next level of talent. In the Big East Syracuse could compete with 6-7 other schools who also weren’t cleaning up on 4 or 5-star talent. SU could usually compete with Temple, Rutgers, West Virginia, Boston College, Virginia Tech and Pitt. In the new Big East, SU was in the same waters as UConn, USF, and Cincinnati. But the Orange could never recruit with Miami, Florida State, Clemson, and now even Louisville and UNC have pushed well past the Orange.

To make sure the Orange aren’t on a recruiting island, fighting for lesser northeast talent and being shut out of the fertile southern grounds, a bi-annual or annual trip to Florida is enormous. Dino Babers’ staff can walk into any home or high school in Florida and promise that player a trip “home” a minimum of twice during his career. On the off years SU won’t play at FSU, they may play in Miami. This dynamic will be a huge boon to a Big 12 school like Cincinnati going into Texas for kids. This is how Kentucky has built a vibrant contender in the SEC. They’ve gone to high talent states in the southeast and promised a trip home to play at Florida, Georgia and others.

The only way the Orange get out of the basement of the ACC is to recruit and develop better. Grabbing a steady pipeline of 3-star kids who were passed over by Miami, FSU and Florida would be enormous. Dipping into the Sunshine State has elevated Louisville in a big way (Teddy Bridgewater, Lamar Jackson). Even though taking on a potential power like FSU (national champions within the last decade) is no picnic, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if Babers campaigned to get one of the Florida teams as an annual opponent. If he didn’t, John Wildhack would have been smart to ask for this favor. The ACC doesn’t need SU football, but SU football needs the state of Florida.

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The Fizz is owned, edited and operated by Damon Amendolara. D.A. is an ’01 Syracuse graduate from the Newhouse School with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.

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