First Call: Pitt’s possible partners in proposed ACC football scheduling changes; Capitals blow lead, on cusp of elimination

Thursday’s “First Call” provides some updates about potential changes to the ACC football conference.

The Penguins-Rangers game at Madison Square Garden was not the only crucial result to track in the NHL playoffs.

The upcoming Pirates-Reds series this weekend has a different tone to it than the one they played last weekend.

And we check in on some ex-Pirates who have gotten off to hot starts.


Changing formats

Talks are progressing to change the ACC football scheduling format. But no vote was taken at the ACC league meetings in Florida this week.

Via ESPN.com, Miami athletic director Dan Radakovich said he believes the league is “closer to the end than the beginning” on that front.

“We need to talk a little bit to our TV partners and see what they think and run it through the car wash one more time,” Radakovich said. “It’s not urgent to get it done right now because even if we decide to move this forward for 2023, there’s time to get it done. We want to be deliberate about it and make sure we’re doing it the right way. ”

The so-called 3-5-5 format would ditch divisions. It would also mean every team in the ACC (14 total) gets three partners that it will play every season – presumably rotating home and away. The remaining 10 conference rivals would rotate onto the schedule every other season, five on, five off.

The goal being, your favorite ACC team would play each of the other 13 ACC teams at least once every two years, in your stadium at least once every four seasons.

Currently, within the seven-team Atlantic and Coastal Divisions, every ACC school plays each of its six division rivals, plus one crossover opponent, every season. The eighth conference game then rotates among the six other teams in the opposite division.

As a result, ACC programs face six of 13 opponents, only once every six seasons – once every dozen years at home.

That’s a lousy way to build conference rivalries.

David Teel of the Richmond Times-Dispatch projects that Pitt could get Louisville, Syracuse, Boston College as its three permanent rivals.


Comeback Cats

The Rangers’ comeback from 2-0 against the Penguins wasn’t the biggest one of the night in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Florida Panthers erased a 3-0 deficit against the Washington Capitals to win 5-3.

That means the Panthers are on the cusp of eliminating the Caps, leading their best-of-seven 3-2. Game 6 is Friday.

Florida was trailing 3-0 with almost seven minutes gone in the third. But Carter Verhaeghe scored to get the Panthers on the board. Then ex-Penguin Patric Hornqvist got in on the act.

That was Hornqvist’s first of the playoffs. Sam Reinhart, Verhaeghe, and Claude Giroux also posted goals to round out the scoring.


Keeping it going

Even by Pirates standards, losing two of three games to the lowly Cincinnati Reds last weekend was pretty bad. Cincy was just 3-23 at the start of the series.

Since then, though, the Pirates took two of three against the Los Angeles Dodgers, who came to PNC Park with Major League Baseball’s best record.

And the Reds stayed hot, too, winning two of three against the Milwaukee Brewers. So the Reds are suddenly competitive. Especially in the batter’s box. In their four wins against the Pirates and Brewers over their last two series, the Reds scored 9, 7, 10 and 14 runs. Overall, in the last six games, Cincy has averaged 8.17 runs and 9.17 hits per game.

They’ve also been tidy in the field, committing only one error during those six games.

Now the Pirates and Reds rematch for four games at PNC Park from Thursday through Sunday. In order, the Pirates have JT Brubaker, Mitch Keller, Zach Thompson and Jose Quintana scheduled to start.

Cincinnati counters with Connor Overton, Tyler Mahle, Luis Castillo and Hunter Greene.


All good things…

Former Pirate starter Chad Kuhl had his first rough start of the year for the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday. He was touched up by the San Francisco Giants for seven hits and five earned runs in 4⅔ innings.

Kuhl suffered the loss – his first of the season – in a 7-1 defeat. That said, Kuhl’s numbers are still quite good. He is 3-1 with an ERA of 2.88 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 38-15.

Kuhl had been 3-0 with an ERA of 1.82 heading into the start.

Also on the topic of ex-Pirates, Josh Bell got another hit for the Washington Nationals. He has six in his last four games. Bell is hitting .349 now, that’s third among qualified batters in the National League.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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