Toughest stretch: Virginia

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. 8-28 (at Florida State, Bye, Miami, at Virginia Tech)

Why: Virginia did not make this an easy selection, as the Cavaliers have an intriguing nonconference slate that features early contests against UCLA and at BYU, with the latter game coming one week after the ACC opener against league newcomer Louisville. Nevertheless, the final three games of the season figure to be the toughest for Virginia when grouped together, even if there is a bye to break things up on Nov. 15.

A Nov. 8 trip to Florida State is, well, a trip to Florida State. The Seminoles are the reigning national champions and will be playing their first game of their final month in their quest to potentially defend their title. Sure, FSU gets Virginia between games at Louisville and at Miami, making for a possible trap, but this still remains the toughest game on the Cavaliers' -- and, really, anyone's -- schedule. The bye a week later will be a welcome one for Virginia, especially with a stretch of three road games in four weeks preceding it. But awaiting it on the other end is a Miami team hungry to take the next step in Year 4 of the Al Golden era. And six days later comes a Friday night trip to rival Virginia Tech, winners of 10 straight in this annual matchup.

The three-game stretch that comes before this one for Virginia is hardly a cakewalk, as it features a trip to defending Coastal Division champion Duke, a home tilt with North Carolina, and a trip to Georgia Tech. But collectively the group of three of the ACC's traditional powers awaiting at the end of a critical season for Mike London and the Cavaliers makes for a tough stretch to top, one that will likely require an upset or two for Virginia to finish on a high note after a winless league campaign in 2013.