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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.
We'll know a lot about the 2020 Florida State team after their first five games of the season. [ Times (2019) ]
Published Jan. 22, 2020

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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.