We’ve reached the final part of our four-part series looking ahead to the top 20 non-conference games for the ACC in 2014. The countdown began with numbers 16 through 20 followed by numbers 11 through 15. Last week, we cracked the top 10 with numbers six through 10 and only five games remain in the countdown. Without further ado, here are the top five non-conference games for the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014:
5. Miami at Nebraska
Saturday, September 20th
A contest of two former national powers looking to make their way back amongst the nation’s elite, Miami will head to Lincoln for its most notable game of the non-conference. Through the years, Miami and Nebraska often met with very much on the line. Bowl games between the Hurricanes and Cornhuskers decided national championships in 1983, 1991, 1994 and 2001. Both schools finished 9-4 in 2013 and this battle could springboard the winner to a very prosperous season.
4. South Carolina at Clemson
Saturday, November 29th
While Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney has transformed the Tigers into a national force to be reckoned with, he still hasn’t been able to figure out the Ol’ Ball Coach and the Gamecocks. Both teams finished 11-2 and ranked in the top 10 last season, but South Carolina has won the last five in the series. Both teams are losing key players such as Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins for Clemson as well as Jadeveon Clowney and Connor Shaw for South Carolina. Nevertheless, the Battle for the Palmetto State could still have significant implications as far as the bowl picture is concerned.
3. Virginia Tech at Ohio State
Saturday, September 6th
The first ever meeting between Frank Beamer and Urban Meyer will put the Buckeyes on upset alert early. Ohio State closed the 2013 season by falling to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship before losing to Clemson in the Orange Bowl after 24 straight wins. Virginia Tech went just 2-4 over its final six games last season and will have an opportunity to notch a huge road victory. Ohio State has lost its last two games against schools from the ACC.
2. Clemson at Georgia
Saturday, August 30th
Last season’s 38-35 Clemson victory over the Bulldogs in the season opener propelled the Tigers to a BCS berth and a top 10 finish. With both schools losing their all-time leading passers, this one may not have the offense that the 2013 match-up did, but it will be an early indication as to how the ACC stacks up against the SEC. Under Mark Richt, Georgia has proven to be vulnerable early in the season as the Bulldogs haven’t been undefeated past the first weekend in October since 2005.
1. Notre Dame at Florida State
Saturday, October 18th
The last two schools to face the SEC for the BCS National Championship will meet in Tallahassee in mid-October. With Everett Golson returning for Notre Dame, the quarterback match-up will also feature passers to lead their teams to the title game in their only season as a starter. Florida State rallied to defeat Notre Dame 18-14 in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl in the last meeting. Despite holding a 5-2 record all-time against Notre Dame, the Seminoles have never beat the Fighting Irish in Tallahassee.