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Friday, June 6, 2014
ACC's Ultimate Road Trip: Week 14

By David M. Hale

It’s the end of the line, and as always, the ACC wraps up with some big nonconference rivalry games, meaning 2014’s regular season should go out with a bang.

Week 14 schedule

Friday, Nov. 28
Saturday, Nov. 29
Our pick: South Carolina at Clemson

Why you should come along: OK, so this one might be a toss-up. Who wouldn’t want to enjoy a game day in Athens, Ga. -- even if Georgia Tech hasn’t beaten the Bulldogs since 2008? UVA and Virginia Tech might be a lopsided rivalry of late, too, but that doesn’t mean the intensity won’t be on display in Blacksburg. NC State and UNC add more in-state ferocity to the schedule, Pitt and Miami has plenty of history, Kentucky and Louisville add a whole new rivalry to the ACC this year, and, of course, Florida and Florida State is among the most anticipated rivalry games every year.

But for the last installment of our road trip, the destination has to be Clemson, where the Tigers look to finally end a five-game losing streak to the Gamecocks.

How big is this year’s game for Dabo Swinney and Clemson? Since last season ended, there’s been a clock in the Tigers’ weight room counting down to its 2014 date with its in-state rival, and the barbs between Swinney, Steve Spurrier and fans throughout the state have been flying fast and furious.

While it’s been tough for Swinney (and Clemson fans) to dodge those jabs, it’s also a reflection on the ACC. While FSU and Louisville can certainly state the ACC’s case against the big, bad SEC, neither Florida nor Kentucky is poised to be national contenders. South Carolina, on the other hand, represents a major prize for the ACC if Clemson can finally find a way to get the monkey off its back.

In the last two seasons, Clemson has lost just four games -- two to Florida State, the two-time defending ACC champs, and two to South Carolina. Swinney knows that no matter how many games his Tigers win, it’s those two games that will define his season in 2014. So forget any other numbers -- this game will have plenty on the line for Clemson, for Swinney and for the ACC.