This week, we're examining each ACC team's schedule, identifying the biggest games, looming upsets and most grueling stretches for each.
Up next: Florida State
Might we have a preseason No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup to jump-start the hearts of college football fans after a long offseason? Alabama and Florida State could be the top two teams in the polls entering the season, and both will be among the favorites to make it to the College Football Playoff. This season is Florida State's best chance to win a national title since 2014.
Toughest three-game stretch: Sept. 2-16 (vs. Alabama in Atlanta, vs. Louisiana Monroe, vs. Miami)
Rarely can somebody point fingers at Florida State for scheduling cupcakes, and this year the Seminoles took their usual tough nonconference schedule and injected it with The Process. This is the game everyone circled on their calendars the second Clemson took a knee to end the 2016 season. Might Nick Saban and his protégé Jimbo Fisher have the country's two best teams going into the season? There is a break for the Seminoles the following week as they host Louisiana Monroe, which has one career bowl appearance. There's not much time for a letdown, however, as coming Sept. 16 is heated rival Miami, which is on a seven-game losing streak to Florida State but keeps getting closer to pulling off the upset. Mark Richt has the program heading in the right direction in his second season.
Potential trap game: Sept. 23 vs. NC State
Usually the Wolfpack only trouble the Seminoles when they're hosting FSU -- the Seminoles have won by an average of four touchdowns the last three meetings in Tallahassee, Florida -- but this comes directly after that three-game stretch. ESPN's Football Power Index is high on the Wolfpack, ranking them inside the initial top 25. Coach Dave Doeren has accumulated a solid amount of talent, but this is a case where the Wolfpack would take advantage of an exhausted Florida State team. The Seminoles' two most physical games of the season likely occur within the first three weeks.
Swing game: Nov. 11 at Clemson
This is the game that decides who represents the Atlantic in the ACC championship game and which team will likely make it to the playoff. Since the advent of the playoff, the winner of this team has made it to the final four each season. It remains to be seen how strong Clemson will be with so many losses on offense, but few teams recruit better than the Tigers. They're also bringing in the No. 1 quarterback in the 2017 class, too. If the Seminoles lose this game, there's a good chance the season ends with the disappointment of missing the ACC title game for a third straight season.
Projected W-L: Alabama is the most talented team in the country, and Saban is unmatched in preparing his teams for opening weekend. In seven neutral-site games against Power 5 teams to open a season, Alabama is outscoring opponents 302-104. Florida State still has Clemson, Louisville and Miami in the ACC, too. There's the finale at Florida as well. A 10-2 season could still land FSU in the conference championship game and playoff.
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