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With Notre Dame Partnership, ACC Football Smart to Use SEC League Game Model

If the ACC's proposed scheduling model sounds a lot like the SEC's proposed scheduling model, it's because it is.

Jeremy Fowler of CBSSports.com reported on Monday that there is "significant support" among ACC athletic directors to stay at eight conference games. Faculty athletic representatives are expected to ratify the decision either Tuesday or Wednesday, though ESPN's Brett McMurphy tweeted that the vote has already been cast in favor of the status quo. 

The apparent requirement, however, is that ACC teams must schedule at least one team from the so-called "power five" conferences each year. 

(How that is enforceable for either the ACC or SEC will be interesting to follow.)

Similar to the SEC, this changes little for the ACC. Teams like Louisville, Clemson, Georgia Tech and Florida State already have longstanding rivalries with teams in power five conferences. And since Notre Dame will play five ACC opponents every year in football as part of a scheduling agreement, the Irish will "count" toward that requirement. 

From Fowler: 

League officials have been asked to consider a model similar to the SEC's – an eight-game conference schedule, plus the guarantee of at least one game against another power conference. Many ACC schools already do this.

Notre Dame's commitment of five ACC games per year lessens the pressure to jump to a nine-game format, which the Pac-12 and Big 12 already use. The Big Ten will begin a nine-game schedule in 2016.

Fowler tweeted separately that, although the ACC would never admit it, support for eight conference games is bolstered by the SEC's model. 

With several longstanding out-of-conference rivalries and the addition of Notre Dame fitting the description of an acceptable opponent, there's almost no incentive for the ACC to move to a nine-game conference schedule. The only way that would change is if an ACC team is, somehow, left out of the College Football Playoff because of an eight-game conference slate.

The ACC is the latest conference to wait and see just how the CFP selection committee weighs factors like strength of schedule. The overwhelming vibe seems to be that if conferences don't have to change their philosophy, then they won't. 

Samuel Chi, B/R's resident playoff guru, writes that other major conferences shouldn't lend the SEC—and, perhaps now, the ACC—a helping hand with the nonconference scheduling requirement. "The SEC wants to have its cake and eat it, too," Chi wrote. "The other conferences shouldn't lend it a fork."

It's an interesting point of view. It could also show that college football needs a commissioner—and it needed one yesterday. Not NCAA president Mark Emmert, who doesn't have much in the way of individual power; his job is to speak and act on behalf of the membership. Rather, college football needs someone who can approve or deny things like realignment, make conference schedules equal across the board and approve playoff access criteria. 

If the five most powerful conferences are granted autonomy within the NCAA, there would be no better time to add a commissioner for that group.

But that's wishful thinking. Conferences have the ability to act by themselves and in their own best interest. For the ACC, that means staying at eight conference games and forcing the selection committee to prove it needs to adapt. 

It's hard to blame them, too. 

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

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The Unique Pressures of Being a Superstar Legacy College Football Recruit

In the end, there was never a lot of doubt where Mitch Hyatt would play his college football.

The seeds were sown long ago. It was just a matter of Clemson harvesting them.

When Hyatt announced his commitment to the Tigers on the evening of February 5, a full year before he could officially sign a national letter of intent, it was the culmination of a process that began 35 years ago when Dan Benish walked onto Clemson’s campus as a defensive tackle signee.

Benish, Hyatt’s uncle, loved his time at Clemson, helping the Tigers win their only national championship in 1981.

Now fans hope Hyatt can live up to the high standards that his uncle set. The expectations are certainly high already. Hyatt—a Suwanee, Georgia, native—is rated as the nation’s No. 4 overall prospect and No. 2 offensive tackle, per 247Sports.com.

By committing to Clemson, Hyatt put extra pressure on himself. But it’s the only place he really wanted to be.

“He enjoyed himself, but he doesn’t enjoy that whole recruiting side of life,” said Hyatt’s North Gwinnett High School coach, Bob Sphire. “His whole thing with me was, ‘I know what I want to do, and I want to focus on helping North Gwinnett be as good as we can be this fall.’ By going to Clemson, getting that done, he can focus on us and his teammates.”

Hyatt had a laundry list of offers from the likes of Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Miami, South Carolina, Southern California, Ohio State, UCLA and more.

But he never found anything quite as special to him as Clemson.

He grew up going to games with Benish, who played at Clemson from 1979-83 and spent four seasons in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins.

“Going into it, Clemson had a clear head start,” Sphire said. “His association with Clemson, going to games growing up, being around the program. It was Mitch’s choice where he wanted to go. It wasn’t about where his uncle wanted him to go at all. He had a very great feel for Clemson already, a positive outlook on them.”

Sphire praised Clemson’s coaching staff for their recruitment of Hyatt (offensive line coach Robbie Caldwell was the recruiter of record).

“They went into the game with the lead,” he said, “and they didn’t screw it up. That’s for sure.”

Over an 18-month period, Hyatt visited numerous campuses, in Sphire’s words, “doing his due diligence.”

“He was going places and seeing things, but he kept comparing it to Clemson,” he said. “It never lost its luster for him. The shine never came off it.”

About a week before national signing day, Sphire said he could see Hyatt’s recruiting process drawing to a close.

“The whole community, I loved it,” Hyatt told 247Sports. “I went there for a visit for junior day and talked with coach (Dabo) Swinney face to face. He told me how the future would look if I went there, and I liked the plan. It seemed like it was for me.”

According to Sphire, Hyatt is a “quiet, unassuming kid” who didn’t truly enjoy the recruiting process and “is not a recruiting thrill-seeker at all. ... He’s not geared for getting on a plane and going to see Oregon’s uniforms.”

So Hyatt approached him with a plan. North Gwinnett typically honors its seniors who have signed scholarships on the evening of national signing day, a big event for the community.

How would everyone feel if he announced his choice that night? “I thought it was a great time to do it then,” Sphire said. “He didn’t want to steal thunder from the seniors, but we’re a tight-knit team and they were tickled to have Mitch as a part of that. We thought it was the right thing to do with the community, too. Everyone loves Mitch and looks up to him, thinks the world of him.”

So Hyatt announced for Clemson, giving the Tigers’ 2015 class a huge boost just as the calendar turned to officially start the new cycle.

“I wanted to go under the radar,” he toldThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Everyone was focused on the signings, so I wanted to slip in there, tell them, keep it under the radar.”

Committing early also allowed Hyatt to recruit for Clemson, trying to convince other elite players to jump on board with the Tigers. Since then, Clemson has also received a commitment from 4-star offensive tackle Jake Fruhmorgen.

Hyatt currently stands 6’5”, 271 pounds, also plays basketball and even dabbles as a defensive lineman.

“I think he’s the total package,” Sphire said. “He’s pretty good in all phases of the game and extremely athletic for the size he has. He’s effective as a run-blocker, a pass-blocker, can really play out in space and go out on screens. Some linemen are really good maulers in the run game or pass sets, but he does everything well. He finishes every play, every drill, he’s extremely coachable and has football intelligence.”

And the best is yet to come, Sphire said.

“Once he gets to college, they’ll put about 20 pounds of quality weight on him, beef him up, change him physically,” he said. “With his footwork, his demeanor, he understands the game of football really well. In terms of a lot of the things we do (with a spread offense) he’ll transition to the college game really well.”

He’ll do so while playing on the same field where his uncle played 30-plus years ago, hoping to lead Clemson to similar glory.

It’s a tough assignment, but one that Mitch Hyatt has fully embraced.

 

*Unless otherwise noted, all quotes for this article were obtained directly by the author.

Connect with Greg on Twitter @gc_wallace

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