Last fall, in a span of three weeks, Duke shocked the Coastal Division and beat two ranked teams -- No. 14 Virginia Tech and No. 23 Miami. Duke’s win in Lane Stadium was particularly stunning, considering how much of a homefield advantage that venue has historically been to the Hokies.
Which team, if any, will produce the ACC’s most surprising upset in 2014?
Florida State and Clemson managed to get through last season without stumbling into any traps, as FSU went undefeated en route to the national title, and Clemson’s only two losses were to top-10 teams.
Will Louisville be able to derail the ACC’s heavyweights? Will anyone?
Consider this your way-too-early ACC upset watch for 2014. Here’s a look at five games with the potential to throw a curveball at the ACC race this fall. Check ‘em out, and then cast your votes as to which one will be the most likely to end in an upset:
Clemson at Florida State, Sept. 20: No way, you say. Not after last season's smackdown. Not in Tallahassee. Look, until proven otherwise, this is still the marquee game in the conference – the one that decides the Atlantic Division winner. In each of the past five seasons, the winner of this game has gone on to play in the ACC championship. Both teams have a bye week to prepare for this game. Clemson will have gotten a good test at Georgia, and FSU will have had a good challenge against Oklahoma State. Is payback in store?
North Carolina at Clemson Sept. 27: Things are looking up for the Tar Heels under coach Larry Fedora, and there’s a lot of young talent that got meaningful experience last year. UNC should be a true contender for the Coastal Division race this fall and will have three nonconference games and a bye week to work out early-season kinks. UNC can’t get caught looking ahead, though, because it has to travel to ECU on Sept. 20. Clemson will already have been tested against Georgia and FSU. Will the Tigers be caught snoozing after an emotional road trip to Tally?
Louisville at Clemson, Oct. 11: This will be the toughest road game of the season for Louisville, an unforgiving welcome party in Death Valley. It will also be the second of back-to-back Atlantic Division road games for the Cardinals, but it will also be the fourth straight ACC game for Clemson. Both teams have to replace record-setting quarterbacks, but Clemson enters the season with the edge defensively. Can Louisville get it together by mid-season in time to make a statement on a national stage?
Florida State at Louisville, Thursday, Oct. 30, ESPN: Louisville will have homefield advantage and a nationally-televised audience for what will be one of their biggest games of the season. If Louisville is going to be taken seriously in the Atlantic Division race, it’s going to have to put up a fight against the top two teams in the division. Both teams will have a bye week to prepare for this one. If Louisville manages the upset in Death Valley, look out.
Florida State at Miami, Nov. 15: Florida State has won four straight and seven of the last nine, and few are giving the Canes much of a chance against the defending national champs. Still, Miami has found a way to keep things interesting recently before being worn down in the fourth quarter. With Duke Johnson back in the lineup this fall, Miami could have a Heisman contender opposite the Heisman winner.