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Wednesday, May 28, 2014
ACC's Ultimate Road Trip: Week 7

By Jared Shanker

With nonconference schedules out of the way completely for the most part, this begins the part of the schedule where the contenders and pretenders are separated.

Week 7 schedule

Saturday, Oct. 11
Our pick: North Carolina at Notre Dame

Why you should come along: The Tar Heels are being pegged as a team that could contend for an ACC championship despite coming off a 7-6 season. There is a vibe around Chapel Hill that coach Larry Fedora has the program heading in the right direction, and this season, his third at UNC, is when the Heels will begin its ascension toward the top of the league.

While the game against Notre Dame is not a conference game, it is the final contest in a three-game stretch that will be the Heels' toughest all season. The Heels travel to Clemson, host Virginia Tech and then play at Notre Dame three consecutive Saturdays, and winning two of those three will be pivotal. Ideally, the Heels would like to win the two ACC games if they were to choose two, but a victory at Notre Dame would give them significant momentum through the rest of the season. The schedule sets up nicely for UNC following the Notre Dame game, and they could coast into Duke for a Thursday night showdown Nov. 20 on a five-game winning streak if they upset the Irish.

It would also be a major statement game for Fedora, who is in the process of shutting down the state's borders and drawing in the top homegrown talent. The Heels are doing well with in-state recruits, considering the sanctions Fedora dealt with, but North Carolina is loaded with elite prospects and UNC needs to land more of them. A nationally televised victory over Notre Dame, which nearly plucked prized 2014 recruit Elijah Hood from the Heels during the last recruiting cycle, would resonate with the recruits the SEC has made a habit of poaching recently.