Toughest stretch: Virginia Tech

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 campaign.

Virginia Tech

Toughest stretch: Oct. 4-23 (at North Carolina, at Pittsburgh, vs. Miami)

Why: The Hokies should actually be tested early this season, with nonconference games against Ohio State and East Carolina (always a thorn in Virginia Tech’s side), as well as the ACC opener against Georgia Tech in its first four games, so fans should have a pretty good idea by the end of September if this team is ready to compete.

But if September is an appropriate test for Frank Beamer’s crew, October will be the turning point in Virginia Tech’s season.

After wrapping up the nonconference slate against Western Michigan to close September, the Hokies get North Carolina on Oct. 4 in the first of three straight games that figure to help define the Coastal Division.

UNC finished last season as one of the nation’s hottest teams, and many early prognosticators have the Tar Heels pegged as the Coastal favorites for 2014. Virginia Tech has the luxury of a bye week after its trip to Tobacco Road, but the Hokies then head north to Pitt, where the Panthers offense figures to be an exceptional test for Tech’s strong secondary. The trifecta ends with a home date against Miami, the second straight week of prime-time football for the Hokies.

The funny thing about this stretch for Virginia Tech is that, even during what fans considered a down season in 2013, the Hokies still were a perfect 3-0 against UNC, Pitt and Miami. But as we look ahead to 2014, the Heels and Panthers appear to have gotten better, Miami should have a healthy Duke Johnson back in the lineup, and questions still surround how much offense the Hokies can muster. If they go 3-0 in those games again, though, it could mean a return to the ACC title game for Virginia Tech.