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Seven thoughts on the 2020 ACC football schedule

FSU could be in for a rocky start to the Mike Norvell era, and why Nov. 7 could be a big day in the state.
We'll know a lot about the 2020 Florida State team after their first five games of the season. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times]
We'll know a lot about the 2020 Florida State team after their first five games of the season. [MONICA HERNDON | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Jan. 22

Now that the ACC has finally released the full football schedules for 2020, here are seven thoughts on how things shook out for Florida State, Miami and the rest of the ACC.

The Mike Norvell era begins with a tough start

Don't call the schedule soft in coach Mike Norvell's first season for Florida State. [PHIL SEARS | AP]

FSU opens in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium against West Virginia, which should get a bump in Year 2 under coach Neal Brown. After a cupcake (Samford), the Seminoles travel to Boise State (which knocked them off last year in Tallahassee). Then, after an open date, FSU goes to North Carolina (where the Seminoles historically struggle) before hosting superpower Clemson. That’s four losable matchups in the first five games — not the kind of soft open a new coach might want.

Related: FSU football 2020 schedule released

Syracuse is a trap

Don't take Dino Babers' Syracuse squad lightly, even if the record is subpar.

Assuming the Orange improves from last year’s 5-7 dud, FSU’s Nov. 19 game at Syracuse feels like a trap. The ’Noles have a short week to prepare for a road game in a tough venue where weird things happen, like the air conditioning going out of a dome named after an HVAC company (Carrier) in FSU’s 23-point blowout loss two years ago.

Related: Mike Norvell’s FSU culture change could take time

I’m excited for the Manny Diaz Bowl

Think Miami's Manny Diaz will regret spurning Temple? [CHRIS SEWARD | AP]

Remember how Diaz spent 18 glorious days as Temple’s head coach in December 2018 before returning to Miami to replace Mark Richt? You can bet that the Owls haven’t forgotten, which makes Miami’s Sept. 5 opener against Temple a much more enticing matchup than it appears on paper. Speaking of which…

Related: Miami Hurricanes 2020 football schedule released

Miami’s non-conference schedule is harder than it looks

Tight end Brevin Jordan started 10 games as a sophomore and Miami will need another impact season from him against a deceptive non-conference schedule. [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]

Except for Wagner, of course. Temple has averaged 8.6 wins in the past five seasons and will be motivated to play Diaz and defensive end Quincy Roche, the reigning AAC Defensive Player of the Year who transferred from Temple to Miami earlier this week. UAB is 20-8 over the past two years, and Miami has lost two in a row to Conference USA teams. And Michigan State is a marquee matchup on the road. Even if the non-conference slate lacks brand recognition, it has some potential pitfalls for Miami.

Circle Nov. 7 on your calendar

Miami-Florida State is always intriguing ... but even more so in a critical Year 2 for Manny Diaz. [MARK WALLHEISER | AP]

That’s when Miami hosts Florida State. If things go south early for the ’Canes (which is possible), an early November game against a new coach leading their in-state ACC rival could become a final referendum for their embattled second-year coach. Sound familiar? It’s the exact same formula that led to Willie Taggart’s firing from FSU last season.

Related: What went wrong with the Miami Hurricanes? Shaquille Quarterman has some thoughts

Clemson could be in for a third consecutive undefeated regular season

Strap in for another season of Clemson likely cruising to the ACC title game and beyond. [RICK SCUTERI | AP]

Not that the Tigers need much help — they’re the clear preseason No. 1 team in the nation — but the schedule gave them some breaks. Their Thursday night opener against Georgia Tech gives them more time to prepare for a potentially plucky Louisville team. Their other weeknight game (Friday, Oct. 2) is against Boston College and its first-time head coach, former Bucs assistant Jeff Hafley … and gives an Clemson extra day off before facing FSU. Even the toughest game (at Notre Dame on Nov. 7) is more manageable thanks to an open date the week before.

My early Coastal Division pick: North Carolina

Pick a team, any team to win the Coastal, so why not Sam Howell's North Carolina squad. [NELL REDMOND | AP]

The serious, football-only argument for the Tar Heels centers on quarterback Sam Howell, the one that got away from FSU to set a true freshman record with 38 touchdown passes last season. But this is the Coastal, where seven different teams have won the division in the past seven seasons. Traditional logic doesn’t apply.

Related: Pooping rhinos, profanity and fan ultimatums: Inside FSU’s Bob Stoops emails

So what’s the Coastal Chaos reasoning behind North Carolina? Because the Tar Heels could start 0-2 (with defeats at UCF and against Auburn in Atlanta), almost lose to Division I-AA power James Madison … and then finish 9-3 to earn a trip to the ACC title game in Charlotte.


  1. The crowds in recent years at Florida State football games haven't been as robust as in the past. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times]
  2. FILE - In this June 9, 2012, file photo, Maria Sharapova of Russia holds the trophy after winning the women's final match against Sara Errani of Italy at the French Open tennis tournament at Roland Garros stadium in Paris. Sharapova is retiring from professional tennis at the age of 32 after five Grand Slam titles and time ranked No. 1. She has been dealing with shoulder problems for years. In an essay written for Vanity Fair and Vogue about her decision to walk away from the sport, posted online Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2020, Sharapova asks: “How do you leave behind the only life you’ve ever known?” [BERNAT ARMANGUE  |  AP]
  3. Florida State running back Cam Akers (3) runs for a touchdown during the first quarter of last season's home opener against Boise State. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Feb. 25• Florida State Seminoles
    Florida State forward Malik Osborne gets pumped up after making a 3-pointer against Louisville in Tallahassee. [MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP]
  5. Florida State's Devin Vassell, right, blocks the shot of North Carolina State's DJ Funderburk during the second half of their game Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. [KARL B DEBLAKER  |  AP]
  6. Feb. 24• Florida State Seminoles
    Florida State's Kiah Gillespie in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Dec. 22, 2019, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) [JESSICA HILL  |  AP]
  7. Florida State's Malik Osborne (10) reacts late in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against North Carolina State in Raleigh, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (AP Photo/Karl B DeBlaker) [KARL B DEBLAKER  |  AP]
  8. Florida State guard M.J. Walker tries to drive past Pittsburgh guard Xavier Johnson during their game Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, in Tallahassee. [MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP]
  9. Florida Gators running back Lamical Perine (22) smashes into LSU Tigers safety John Battle (26) in the second quarter. (Bronte Wittpenn, Times) [Times]
  10. BRONTE WITTPENN   |   Times
Florida Gators wide receiver Trevon Grimes (8) catches the ball near the end zone in the third quarter in a game against LSU at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium at the University of Florida in Gainesville on Saturday, October 6, 2018.  [Times]
  11. Pittsburgh's Justin Champagnie (11) and Florida State's Malik Osborne (10) battle for a rebound in the first half in Tallahassee on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020. [MARK WALLHEISER  |  AP]
  12. Florida State quarterback James Blackman (1) throws during the first half of the 2019 season opener against Boise State in Tallahassee. [MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times]