Toughest stretch: Florida State

Not all schedules are created equal. That's life in college football. Each slate does, however, present its own set of challenges. Here, we take a look at the toughest stretches that each ACC team will face in 2014, periods that could help determine their fate in the upcoming season.


Toughest stretch: Oct. 18-Nov. 15 (Notre Dame, at Louisville, Virginia, at Miami)

Why: We’ll have a pretty good idea whether Florida State is equipped to defend its national championship during the first month of the season. The Seminoles, who will probably be ranked No. 1 in most preseason polls, open the season against Oklahoma State in the Cowboys Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Aug. 30. Playing the Pokes in Big 12 country figures to be a tough nonconference test, to go along with the Nov. 29 finale against rival Florida at Doak Campbell Stadium.

But FSU’s most difficult stretch of the season won’t come until midseason, beginning when Notre Dame travels to Tallahassee on Oct. 18 for yet another demanding nonconference game. The Fighting Irish, who will welcome back quarterback Everett Golson from a season-long academic suspension, haven’t played at Doak Campbell Stadium since 2002. FSU is 5-2 against the Irish, including a Champs Sports Bowl victory in 2011.

After playing Notre Dame, the Seminoles will have 12 days to prepare for an Oct. 30 trip to Louisville for a Thursday night game. The Cardinals, who will be playing in their first season in the ACC, probably won’t be as good as they were last season, when quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was still around. But new coach Bobby Petrino has a penchant for getting the most out of his offense, so the Seminoles can’t overlook a road game, which has tripped them up in the past.

After a Nov. 8 home game against Virginia, the Seminoles play at rival Miami on Nov. 15. The Hurricanes gave Florida State one of its toughest games of the season last year. Well, none of FSU’s games were very close until it played Auburn in the BCS National Championship. But the Hurricanes actually stayed within striking distance until FSU’s Devonta Freeman scored on a 12-yard touchdown run with 3:41 left in the third quarter to give the Seminoles a 35-14 lead. FSU ran away with a 41-14 win over the No. 7 Hurricanes.