Stanford football: Why Cardinal are looking forward to new ACC affiliation

STANFORD – When Stanford opened last season at Hawai’i, traveling a day earlier than usual to adjust to the time change and the long flight, little did it know that it would be good preparation for the years to follow.

Starting this season, Stanford will replace annual trips to the Pacific Northwest and Southern California with cross-country flights as it begins a new era in the ACC.

The Cardinal will play four games in the Eastern time zone in 2024, including visits to Syracuse, Clemson and N.C. State and a previously scheduled game at Notre Dame.

“It’s going to be fun,” junior cornerback Colin Wright said. “I know a lot of people have mentioned the travel implications, but I think all those things will work themselves out. Playing against schools that we’ve all admired growing up like the Clemsons and Miamis will be interesting.

“A kid like me from Texas has never been to the East Coast, so it will be an interesting opportunity to see those places.”

While almost everyone would prefer the old arrangement of the Pac-12 and its longstanding regional rivalries, the Cardinal are seeing advantages to their new conference affiliation.

Senior linebacker Gaethan Bernadel, a Miami native, is excited that his family won’t have to stay up as late to watch many of his games, and defensive coordinator Bobby April is looking forward to being on national television more often.

“It will be fun to see our guys getting pubbed up in New York and California,” April said.

The ACC Network is available in about 90 million households, while the Pac-12 Network is available in less than 20 million households – one of the many reasons the Pac-12 is disbanding.

The coaching staff is preparing for a whole new set of opponents (Cal and Notre Dame are the only holdovers from last season), though April said it’s no different than last year when the staff brought in by new coach Troy Taylor was new to the Pac-12.

After facing a series of top QBs last year – USC’s Caleb Williams was selected first overall and Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. and Oregon’s Bo Nix were picked in the top 12 in the NFL Draft on Thursday – Stanford’s defense might have to prepare for a different set of challenges this fall.

“I anticipate we’ll get a lot more running in the ACC,” Wright said. “The Pac-12 is known for Air Raid offenses, people sling the ball around, which is why most of the QBs in the Pac-12 translate in the NFL. So I anticipate a lot more running.”

The Cardinal opens at home against TCU on Aug. 30 and hosts Cal Poly on Sept. 7 before opening ACC play at Syracuse on Sept. 20.

Stanford Stadium will host its first ACC game against Virginia Tech on Oct. 5. Wake Forest, Louisville, and SMU are also coming to The Farm in 2024 for the first time as conference opponents.

Though the schedule will look different, the coaching staff has stayed the same from last year, which should help the Cardinal improve on a 3-9 record in Taylor’s first season.

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