Atlantic Coast Conference coaches no longer need to bolster their schedules with power teams from other conferences. The revamped ACC, which added Miami and Virginia Tech this year and will add Boston College in 2005, is on par with any football conference in the country.
But scheduling a non-Bowl Championship Series conference team at home doesn't guarantee a win any more. Fresno State already routed Kansas State and Washington on the road. Utah beat Arizona and Texas A&M. And Boise State trounced Oregon State.
"Coaches who are looking to stay around," Clemson Coach Tommy Bowden said, "will look at who their nonconference opponents are."
Clemson will visit Texas A&M on Saturday in one of three marquee nonconference games featuring an ACC team. Maryland will play at No. 7 West Virginia, and North Carolina State has a home game against No. 9 Ohio State. Challenging nonconference games like these might not happen as frequently in the coming years.
"In the future, that would be a possibility," said Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen, whose team will retain border rival West Virginia on the schedule. "But most of those schedules are taken care of five, six or seven years ahead of time."
There are already indications that the ACC schedule will test a team nearly every week. Three of the first four ACC games of the season were decided by four points or less or in overtime.
"I think all of that has to be analyzed," N.C. State Coach Chuck Amato said. "Our strength of schedule is tough enough in our league."
Bowden said the aim used to be scheduling a tough nonconference team to strengthen one's schedule, to add a game that might be televised nationally and garner recognition for the conference. The new challenge appears to be determining which teams will be strong, but not too strong.
"You have to be careful you don't overschedule," Wake Forest Coach Jim Grobe said.
Playing road games against the likes of Fresno State or Boise State used to be considered a perilous endeavor. Now, even playing those teams at home is a danger. Coaches feel the limit of 85 scholarships has become the great equalizer for teams around the country.
"Everyone said it would create parity," Bowden said. "I don't think people had an accurate handle on how long it would take."
Rix Remains Seminoles' Starter
Florida State Coach Bobby Bowden will stick with much-criticized quarterback Chris Rix for Saturday's game against Alabama-Birmingham. But that doesn't mean the coach didn't think about changing quarterbacks.
Bowden said Rix lost his confidence in Florida State's 16-10 overtime loss to Miami last week, when Rix threw two interceptions and fumbled twice.
"You do a lot of thinking and get the feelings of the ballclub," Bowden said. "If I had to make the decision last Saturday, I probably would have worked the other [backup Wyatt Sexton] some."
In the end, though, Bowden said he would stick with Rix, a senior, at least for now, because "he's got a lot of wins under his belt. I can't just throw that away."
Florida Teams Wary of Ivan
The Florida peninsula is expected to be spared from the worst of Hurricane Ivan, but the storm and its consequences remain on the minds of the state's football coaches.
"Sometimes you say the hurricane has missed south Florida," Miami Coach Larry Coker said. "Then you realize that a lot of kids have families in affected areas. The main thing is to make sure the families and players are safe."
Coker, who has family in Fort Myers, Fla., said the storm has caused an understandable distraction.
"Your mind is on those things because football becomes second to the safety of your family," he said.
Said Bobby Bowden, "We're facing our fourth hurricane, and that's including Miami."
Randolph Piles up Yardage
Junior quarterback Cory Randolph became the first Wake Forest player, and the third ACC player, to total more than 300 yards passing (344) and 100 yards rushing (107) in Saturday's 31-17 win at East Carolina . . .
Eight ACC teams received votes in the top 25. . . .
Virginia Coach Al Groh likes the new rule that requires officials to announce which player committed a penalty. "We're in the information age anyway," Groh said . . .
North Carolina Coach John Bunting said the Tar Heels' performances against William & Mary (a 49-38 win) and Virginia (a 56-24 loss) are not an indication of how his team can play. "There are a lot of signs we can run the football on anyone," Bunting said . . .
Coker, who coached Barry Sanders at Oklahoma State, said Louisiana Tech running back Ryan Moats has the acceleration and a "sixth sense" to know which way to run that reminds him of the former NFL great. Moats, who has 514 rushing yards in two games, will face a stern test against Miami's defense Saturday.