Bill Frakes/SI

2014 ACC college football preview: Can Florida State go undefeated once again?

By Martin Rickman
August 14, 2014
Atlantic Coastal
TEAM Record TEAM RECORD
Florida State 12-0 (8-0) Virginia Tech 8-4 (6-2)
Clemson 10-2 (7-1) North Carolina 8-4 (5-3)
Louisville 8-4 (5-3) Miami 7-5 (5-3)
Boston College 6-6 (3-5) Duke 8-4 (4-4)
Syracuse 5-7 (3-5) Georgia Tech 7-5 (4-4)
NC State 5-7 (2-6) Pitt 6-6 (3-5)
Wake Forest 3-9 (1-7) Virginia 3-9 (1-7)

Conference championship: Florida State defeats Virginia Tech

Three key nonconference games

Clemson at Georgia, Aug. 30 (ESPN)

Coming off a thrilling Orange Bowl win over Ohio State, the Tigers could have momentum heading into this test against the Bulldogs. Clemson needs its defense to play the way it did the last few weeks of 2013. Meanwhile, the offense -- without Sammy Watkins and Tajh Boyd -- must click early.

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Virginia Tech at Ohio State, Sept. 6 (ESPN)

A revamped Buckeyes’ defense is likely licking its chops to face an untested and unproven Hokies’ offense. While Virginia Tech’s defense was one of the best in the country a year ago, it should have its hands full against dual-threat quarterback Braxton Miller and Urban Meyer’s speedy skill-position players.

Cincinnati at Miami, Oct. 11 (TBD)

There’s no doubt Tommy Tuberville’s teams know how to score. If quarterback Gunner Kiel (finally on the field again) plays up to his pedigree, the Bearcats could be a force in the American Athletic Conference. The Hurricanes can’t afford to sleepwalk in this one.

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Three key conference games

Miami at Louisville, Sept. 1 (ESPN)

A rematch of last year’s Russell Athletic Bowl, this game also serves as an ACC welcoming party. The Cardinals would probably rather play an opponent not motivated by revenge, but this is a telling first test under Bobby Petrino.
 
Clemson at Florida State, Sept. 20 (TBD)

This matchup settled the ACC Atlantic last season, and it’ll likely do the same this year. Clemson’s Beasley told SI.com during ACC media days that he would rather beat Florida State than break the program's losing streak against South Carolina. That's easier said than done -- especially against a team as talented as the ‘Noles.
 
North Carolina at Duke, Nov. 20 (ESPN)

In-state rivalries are always intriguing, but this one could mean even more this late in the fall. Both Duke and North Carolina may be in position to capture the ACC Coastal Division, and the Tar Heels will want to avenge last year’s 27-25 loss.

Miami Herald/MCT/Getty Images

Five key questions

Can Florida State march through another season unscathed? Ask this question to any Seminoles fan and the answer is absolutely, positively yes. Still, going undefeated for two straight seasons is no easy task, no matter how dominant a team appears on paper. Florida State has loads of talent at every position, and it will be favored in games against Oklahoma State, Clemson, Notre Dame, Louisville and Florida. But all it takes is one slip-up to put a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff at risk.
 
How will Louisville and new (old) coach Bobby Petrino adjust to the ACC? The Cardinals deserved admission into the ACC given the amount of money they've poured into athletics and the success they’ve had across multiple sports. Now, it’s time to see if the Cards can avoid the initial struggles that have followed other recently realigned programs, such as West Virginia and Utah. Having a familiar face and offensive-minded coach in Petrino -- and a talented defense -- should help ease the transition.
 

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