Not all schedules are created equal. That's life in college football. Each slate does, however, present its own set of challenges. Here, we take a look at the toughest stretches that each ACC team will face in 2014, periods that could help determine their fate in the upcoming campaign.
Toughest stretch: Nov. 8-29 (at NC State, Clemson, bye, at Georgia)
Why: Georgia Tech's 2014 schedule made this one a rather difficult choice, especially with the Yellow Jackets playing six road games. There is a not-so-friendly stretch from Sept. 20 to Oct. 11, when they travel to Virginia Tech and get a bye before hosting Miami and then defending Coastal Division champion Duke. There is another stretch that starts with that Oct. 11 date with the Blue Devils, as Georgia Tech then travels to play fellow division foes North Carolina and Pitt. Ultimately, however, the Yellow Jackets' final three-game stretch of the season takes the prize.
The Nov. 8 trip to Raleigh, North Carolina, will feature an improved NC State team looking to make a bowl game in its second year of the Dave Doeren era, a game that Georgia Tech needs to win but one that won't be easy, especially given the scare a subpar Wolfpack squad gave Clemson last year. (And, of course, given the stunner it pulled over Florida State a year earlier.) Then comes Clemson, which, despite key personnel losses at the skill positions from last year, enters 2014 with its eyes on an ACC title. Clemson will have one of the best defensive lines in the nation, one certainly up to the task of defending the triple-option offense — especially since this game is sandwiched between a favorable stretch for the Tigers, who face Wake Forest the week before and Georgia State a week later.
Then, of course, comes a trip to Athens, Georgia, to face the Bulldogs in the annual rivalry game. Georgia is another team aiming for a conference title in 2014 and, given their five straight wins over the Yellow Jackets — and 12 wins in their last 13 tries against them, and a double-overtime road win last year without their starting quarterback — are sure to be a difficult opponent. The Yellow Jackets do benefit from having a bye week to get ready. (Though Georgia's Nov. 22 game against Charleston Southern might as well be a bye, too.)
Georgia Tech does not have an easy road to navigate in 2014, but its early tests look a lot easier when compared to the tough closing stretch.