Mark your calendar for these big-time ACC matchups
By TED GIOIA
College Contributor Network
While the season is just getting started, it's never too early to start looking at future ACC matchups.
We saw Louisville dominate Miami to earn their first ACC victory in Week 1. Then in Week 2, Pittsburgh edged Boston College to earn its first conference win of the season.
Continuing this trend, Weeks 3, 4, and 5 each have at least one ACC battle worth checking out:
#21 Louisville @ Virginia - Saturday, September 13th
Louisville proved that it's a force to be reckoned with this year through a statement win against Miami to open the season. The loss of Teddy Bridgewater has been minimized with the impressive play of Will Gardner and 233-pound running back Dominique Brown is an absolute nightmare for the opposition.
Heading into the season, few would have considered this an intriguing matchup. However, the Cavaliers opened up the season by giving seventh-ranked UCLA a run for its money, and followed up with a Week 2 blowout of Richmond.
Quarterback remains an area of concern for Virginia, but its defense has been solid to date. Seven forced turnovers against Richmond will give the Cavaliers the confidence they need heading into their meeting with offensively-powered Louisville.
Don't be surprised if Virginia shows their home crowd another close game. While Louisville is still a heavy favorite, it'll be interesting to see how Gardner handles the much-improved Virginia defense in his first start away from home.
#23 Clemson @ #1 Florida State - Saturday, September 20th
I don't think anyone doubts the fact that this is the most anticipated game of the 2014 ACC regular season. Florida State has won 18 straight games, but it still has a lot to prove after a shaky start to the season against Oklahoma State. Clemson's playoff hopes may have ended after dropping its opener to Georgia, but everything is still on the table in terms of an ACC title run.
Despite throwing for 370 yards, Jameis Winston threw two interceptions in FSU's close call at Oklahoma State. Critics were quick to jump on the defending Heisman Trophy winner, predicting he won't be the same without wide receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Kenny Shaw. Critics aren't so loud after he completed passes to 10 different receivers and posted a QBR of 92.9, according to ESPN, in a rout of The Citadel last week. It will be interesting to see how this new-look Seminole offense fares against a Clemson defense that returns seven starters from last season.
If Clemson is still feeling bitter about its week one loss at Georgia, it's not showing it. The Tigers absolutely demolished South Carolina State last week, posting over 700 yards of total offense, while giving up only 44. Clemson's 73 points were the most it has scored in a single game since 1981. This was just the confidence boost the Tigers needed before traveling to Tallahassee.
Both Clemson and Florida State have bye-weeks heading into this matchup, and for good reason. Florida State's playoff hopes are high, and Clemson would love nothing more than to bury them. On top of national title aspirations, an early lead in the ACC Atlantic Division is also up for grabs.
For the ACC in 2014, this is as good as it gets.
Duke @ Miami - Saturday, September 27th
Right now, this matchup may not seem like it has a lot of weight to it. But by Week 5, I expect both of these teams to be seen as Virginia Tech's main competition in the ACC Coastal Division.
Miami took a step in the wrong direction in its opener at Louisville. With true freshman Brad Kaaya under center, the Hurricanes looked rattled against a powerful Cardinals team.
However, Week 2 brought a much better showing for the Hurricanes' offense and Kaaya looked improved in the bounce back victory over Florida A&M. With Duke Johnson in the backfield and a talented young defense improving on the other side, it's only a matter of time before the Hurricanes gain back the respect of the ACC.
Duke has looked good, not great, in their first two wins of the season. Veteran quarterback Aaron Boone is the centerpiece of a Blue Devil offense that returned nine starters from last year. 2013 All-ACC wideout Jamison Crowder is already off to a solid start with 163 yards and two touchdowns in his first two games. Duke's inexperience on defense is the only thing that will keep them from competing for the Coastal Division title.
Miami leads up to this Week 5 matchup by hosting Arkansas State and then traveling to Nebraska for a tough test. Duke is home to Kansas then Tulane in the coming weeks, with a chance to carry an unblemished 4-0 record into Miami. By the time September 27th rolls around, there will be substantial buzz surrounding these two teams.
Ted Gioia is a junior at Syracuse University with majors in Finance as well Television, Radio, and Film. Born in North Buffalo, he is an avid Bills and Sabres fan. Follow him on Twitter: @Ted_Gioia