There are plenty of good nonconference games to be excited about in the ACC, but who’s got the toughest draw? It’s not easy to determine, but this list was based off of the facts in this morning’s post. Who knows what will happen to shake things up, though, such as Oklahoma’s fall last year. It wasn’t the same Sam Bradford-led team Miami had been expecting. Based in large part on last year’s results, here are the ACC’s toughest nonconference schedules, ranked from most challenging to creampuff, with the opponents’ records included:
1. Miami: Florida A&M (8-3), at Ohio State (11-2), at Pitt (10-3), South Florida (8-5): Anything could happen against in-state opponents, and back-to-back road trips against two teams likely to start in the top 15 make for another difficult September. FSU and Miami were pretty evenly matched in the “scouting opponents” post, but Miami gets the nod because of its back-to-back road trips.
2. Florida State: Samford (5-6), at Oklahoma (8-5), BYU (11-2), Florida (13-1): Three teams that should be in the preseason Top 25 will let Jimbo Fisher know quickly where his team stands in the national picture.
3. Virginia Tech: Boise State (14-0), James Madison (6-5), East Carolina (9-5), Central Michigan (12-2): It’s not as difficult as last year, and Boise State on Labor Day gets a lot of the credit. Let’s face it, the Broncos are the only ones on this list who should be of much concern to the Hokies. If Virginia Tech can’t take care of the other three in Lane Stadium, it’s not the team we thought it was.
4. Duke: Elon (9-3), Alabama (14-0), Army (5-7), at Navy (10-4): The Blue Devils will face the defending national champs. It doesn’t get much tougher than that, and Army and Navy are hardly pushovers these days.
5. North Carolina: LSU (9-4), at Rutgers (9-4), East Carolina (9-5), William & Mary 11-3: The Tar Heels kick off the season in the national spotlight, but don’t dismiss a road trip to Rutgers, and the battle for the unofficial state championship.
6. NC State: Western Carolina (2-9), at UCF (8-5), Cincinnati (12-1), at East Carolina (9-5): Two road trips to respectable bowl programs, plus the matchup against Cincinnati, which was one of the nation’s top teams a year ago.
7. Georgia Tech: South Carolina State (10-2), at Kansas (5-7), Middle Tennessee (10-3), at Georgia (8-5): Two road trips against two BCS opponents, including rival Georgia. But the Jackets have been there, done that, and should be motivated to do it again after losing at home in 2009.
8. Clemson: North Texas (2-10), Presbyterian (0-11), at Auburn (8-5), South Carolina (7-6): It’s the latter two games that earned the Tigers this ranking, as the chance to beat two neighboring SEC teams could give Clemson a boost in the rankings.
9. Maryland: Navy (10-4), Morgan State (6-5), at West Virginia (9-4), Florida International (3-9): The key is the opener against the Midshipmen in Baltimore. The Terps can’t afford a let-down to either in-state program, and the renewed rivalry with West Virginia will add a hostile road trip.
10. Wake Forest: Presbyterian (0-11), at Stanford (8-5), Navy (10-4), at Vanderbilt (2-10): The Deacs beat Stanford last year, but that was on their home turf, and Navy has recently given Wake fits. A road trip to Vandy will pit two similar programs against each other.
11. Boston College: Weber State (7-5), Kent State (5-7), Notre Dame (6-6), at Syracuse (4-8): The Eagles should fare no worse than 3-1 against this lineup, but they’ve got Notre Dame at home this year, so 4-0 isn’t out of the question. Only Weber State had a winning record last year.
12. Virginia: Richmond (11-2), at USC (9-4), VMI (2-9), Eastern Michigan (0-12): Save for the trip to USC, you would think the Cavaliers could handle this slate. As we learned last year, though, assume nothing in Charlottesville until proven otherwise. The two FCS schools earned Virginia the last spot, but BC put up a good fight.