Why Does Potential Pitt Opponent Play Nine ACC Games, But Only Eight Count for Conference?


A great amount of interest in the Pitt football fandom has shifted to a program, that to this point, we have not given much attention to.  The Wake Forest Demon Deacons are now 4-0 in-conference, 7-0 overall, and the only other ranked ACC team besides Pitt.  They are also the leading candidate to play Pitt in the ACC Championship game on December 4th in Charlotte.

So having never given this program much attention in the past, as they have perennially been at the bottom of the conference for many many years now, my father brought to my attention an unusual quirk in the remaining Wake Forest schedule for 2021.  At 7-0 already and 4-0 in the conference, I expected to find four conference opponents and one nonconference game remaining on their schedule. 

However, Wake Forest still has five ACC opponents on their schedule to finish out the regular season.  How could this be?  If you know the answer already, good for you.  You are way more in-tuned with the inner workings of the ACC Conference than I am.  I am one of the few who actually get ACC Network with my Fubo subscription so I am somewhere in the middle of that ACC fandom spectrum.  (We are currently looking for more sponsors if a Fubo exec is a reader of ours!)

So why, with five games remaining, would Wake Forest seemingly have a final conference record of nine total games rather than the normal eight?  I did some digging and found out.

ACC Realignment

When the ACC realigned around 2011, a lot of rivalries were dismantled.  Of course, we know from a Pitt perspective that the Backyard Brawl was lost to realignment, but rivalries were also broken for programs remaining in the same conference.  With Wake Forest, North Carolina, Duke, and NC State all located in North Carolina, you can imagine the rivalries were, and still remain, fierce.  While everyone knows of the heated basketball rivalry between Duke and UNC, I have, through my own ignorance, never given much thought to the other North Carolina schools. 

However, back in 2013, the ACC attempted to spare, and create, some of these rivalries throughout the conference.  They established cross-divisional games that would pin a Coastal Division team against an Atlantic Division team every season, in addition to rotating cross-divisional opponents once a year, every seven years.  That can be confusing, however, Pitt fans see it as we play Syracuse every year, but other Atlantic teams once every seven years. This was to create new rivalries while also maintaining old ones.

Since Duke and North Carolina remained in the same division and so did Wake Forest and NC State, those rivalries were naturally sustained because every team plays each team in their division every year.  Also, like Pitt and Syracuse, Duke and Wake Forest were paired together as annual cross-division opponents, as were North Carolina and NC State.  This left Wake Forest and North Carolina to only battle once or twice each decade. 

A Plan to Save the Rivalry

This left both Wake Forest and North Carolina feeling awfully lousy about how that was all broken down.  Sure, each North Carolina team would keep three of their rivals, but one rivalry was getting taken out to pasture.  So in 2019, both programs decided that, scheduling issues aside, schools located 82 miles apart in the same state should not go seven years without playing each other.  However, two teams having conference schedules of nine games while every other program had just eight would make it difficult to crown a champion and have potential repercussions on the College Football Playoffs.

The solution was clear.  While the rivalry game between North Carolina and Wake Forest could continue, the game would count as a nonconference game and not affect either team’s ACC record.  The first of these “nonconference” games was played in 2019, and North Carolina won at Wake Forest 24-18.  The second game of this series is scheduled for November 6th of this year at Chapel Hill.  

From what I can tell, the plans moving forward have not been established passed this 2021 matchup, but I would imagine they continue at some point.  Also, the two programs did get the chance to play each other due to last year’s Covid-affected scheduling.  The Demon Deacons lost in a 59-53 shootout in 2020, so maybe they will feel they have gotten their fill for now after their November 6th matchup.  However, I would imagine this happens again, and when it does, you will now know why.