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Monday, March 31, 2014
Top five dream ACC nonconference games

By Andrea Adelson and Heather Dinich

This question came into the mailbag the other day, and we thought it was worth a deeper discussion.
Ricky in Tallahassee, Fla., writes: Hi, Andrea. Mark Schlabach did a piece on five nonconference games he would like to see and I was wondering which five nonconference games involving an ACC team would make your list? As an FSU fan and alumnus, here are the five nonconference games I would like to see for FSU: 1. FSU-Alabama: So many storylines. We came SO close to this happening for the national title. FSU won the last meeting (Jacksonville, 2007) even though it was later vacated. 2. FSU-LSU: Would love to play the "other" Tigers in Deaf ... um ... I mean the "other" Death Valley. (Clemson-LSU would be great as well.) 3. FSU-USC: Classic East Coast vs. West Coast. 4. FSU-Ohio State: Last time Urban Meyer played FSU, he lost and then "retired." Wonder what he'd do if he lost again with a different team ... 5. FSU-Texas: Would have been better had Mack Brown stayed since he's an FSU alumni, but this would still be fun to watch regardless.

What say you, Andrea?

Ricky, ask and you shall receive! We have come up with our top five "dream" nonconference matchups involving the ACC. We tried to come up with compelling matchups that featured good storylines for multiple league teams. Not an easy task to be sure. While Schlabach has Florida State-Georgia at No. 5 on his list, that matchup did not make the cut on ours. Our clear No. 1 choice has to be ...

1. FSU vs. Alabama. As Ricky referenced above, there were so many people rooting for the juiciest national championship game possibility of all last season -- Jimbo Fisher taking on his mentor Nick Saban in a clash of two college football powers. FSU vs. Auburn turned out to be a heck of a game, but oh the connections between the Noles and Tide. Aside from Fisher and Saban, you have Jameis Winston vs. the home state team he spurned; now you have former Nole Jacob Coker trying to win the starting quarterback job with the Crimson Tide; you have some of the best recruiting classes lining up against each other; you have speed vs. speed, athleticism vs. athleticism; future NFL draft picks vs. future NFL draft picks. The chess game on the sideline would be fascinating to watch.

2. Clemson vs. Oregon: This is an intriguing offensive matchup that we were teased with last November, when there was a possibility that they might play in the Discover Orange Bowl. Oregon was No. 4 in the country in scoring offense at 45.5 points per game, while Clemson was No. 8 at 40.2 points per game. With quarterback Marcus Mariota back, the Ducks should again have one of the top teams in the country, but Clemson’s defense could finally reach an elite level this fall. If Clemson finds some dependable offensive leaders this offseason, there’s no reason the Tigers can’t continue their offensive success and reload under coordinator Chad Morris.

3. Louisville vs. Texas or Arkansas: Take your pick, because we couldn’t decide. Both are equally intriguing because of the timing and the relationships between the head coaches, the staffs and their former players and schools. With former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino now at Louisville, there would be no shortage of plot lines if he faced his former team a year after he was fired for a humiliating scandal that included a mistress and a motorcycle. It would also be interesting to see how former Louisville coach Charlie Strong, now at Texas, could do against his former team, given all of the changes that both Louisville and Texas have undergone.

4. Miami vs. USC: Miami and USC have combined to win a multitude of national championships and send hundreds of players into the NFL, but have fallen on hard times recently thanks to NCAA sanctions and probation. Shall we call this the "pro-bowl" for short? We kid, we kid. In all seriousness, these are two of the glamour programs in college football, right in the middle of two of the best recruiting territories in the nation. Both just finished in the top 15 in the 2014 recruiting rankings -- Miami at 10 and USC at 14, and both have young, rising coaches at the helm, with the expectation they can lead their respective programs back to a championship game. Unfortunately, these teams have only played twice -- and the last meeting was in 1968.

5. Duke vs. Tennessee: The ties between Duke coach David Cutcliffe and Tennessee still run strong, and in 2010, he withdrew his name from consideration for the head coaching job there. Cutcliffe, the Vols’ former offensive coordinator, was once a candidate to replace Lane Kiffin, but he made it clear his loyalties lie in Durham now. While an assistant with Tennessee from 1982-98, Cutcliffe helped the Volunteers to five SEC championships, 16 bowl games in 17 seasons and the national title in 1998. The former SEC Coach of the Year has built Duke into a respectable program, and he knows what it takes to win at the highest level. Considering what a great game the Chick-fil-A Bowl was this past season, we think it would be just as interesting to see Cutcliffe get another shot at the SEC and a program he was once so close to.