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Thursday, August 14, 2014
ACC's biggest battles: Nos. 7 & 8

By David M. Hale

The 2014 college football season starts in 14 days. We're getting you ready by counting down the ACC's 10 biggest battles of the fall. Today, we're looking at numbers 7 and 8.

No. 8

The matchup: Florida State vs. Oklahoma State

Date/Location: Aug. 30, AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas (8 p.m., ABC)

Last meeting: Florida State defeated 19th-ranked Oklahoma State, 34-23, in the 1985 Gator Bowl when freshman QB Chip Ferguson threw for 338 yards and two TDs.

Why it matters: All eyes (including “College GameDay”) will be on this season-opening matchup in Texas, one of the marquee non-conference showdowns of the season. FSU's defense will be in transition after losing several key seniors from last season's squad, and Oklahoma State can certainly put up points. A win for the Cowboys would be huge in setting up the Big 12 for a spot in the College Football Playoff -- particularly given the league's lack of an end-of-season conference title game to boost its credibility -- while an FSU victory could set the stage for another march toward a national title. Last season's run for FSU included plenty of criticism that the Seminoles hadn't played a worthy schedule. The date with Oklahoma State to open 2014 ensures there won't be similar commentary this time around.

No. 7

The matchup: Florida State vs. Miami

Date/Location: Nov. 15, Sun Life Stadium, Miami Gardens, Fla.

Last meeting: Florida State toppled No. 7 Miami for the fourth straight time, 41-14, last November, while the Hurricanes lost leading rusher Duke Johnson to a season-ending ankle injury in the process. It was Miami's first loss of the season.

Why it matters: Last year's showdown in Tallahassee, Florida, marked the first time since 2004 that FSU and Miami faced off as top-10 teams, and while the season deteriorated quickly for the Hurricanes, it certainly felt like the rivalry had regained some of the momentum it had lost over the years. There were scuffles on the field and strong words afterward, and, of course, the Seminoles' dominant win was held as proof they were ready to compete for a national title. This year, ESPN's Football Power Index suggests Miami has a better shot than anyone to knock off Florida State (though, in fairness, the odds still aren't high), and the late-season showdown means the Canes will have had time to find their QB. Since Miami joined the league, the ACC has been hoping this game would be a national event, and perhaps this year it will be. The Hurricanes could either add one more marquee win on the Seminoles' run to another championship or Al Golden's crew could finally vault back into the national spotlight with its biggest win in years.