Once upon a time, Miami vs. Florida State was a matchup that no college football fan wanted to miss. Between the amount of talent suiting up for both teams, the games were usually close, and also meaningful in the national picture. Once Miami joined the ACC, these battles took on more importance in a conference setting. It was thought this season, with Florida State ranked high in the preseason polls, and Miami bringing back a lot of experience, that the teams would make the game important both nationally and in conference. This weekend, it can now be argued that it isn’t even the most important game on the conference schedule.
The game’s national importance took a hit before the season started, when the Nevin Shapiro scandal blew up. Several important Hurricanes were suspended, some for multiple games-for their acceptance of impermissible benefits. While the players all gradually returned, the Hurricanes were up and down from week to week. While they have beaten Georgia Tech, they have lost to Maryland (albeit when the number of suspended players was at its highest). Additional losses to Virginia Tech and Virginia further hampered the Hurricanes championship chances. The Seminoles did their part as well; after losing a close game to then-#1 Oklahoma (where starting QB E.J. Manuel was injured), they then lost to Clemson and Wake Forest. That brutal three-week stretch not only crushed their national championship hopes, it made them almost an afterthought in conference.
Now the two of them, often matched up in games of great magnitude, are fighting for their divisional lives. Both teams have to win out and get plenty of help to win their respective divisions. Florida State’s mission could be moot by the end of the day. The two teams above them, Clemson and Wake Forest, meet in a game that could clinch the Atlantic Division if the Tigers get the victory. Miami’s task is even more daunting-behind three teams with only two conference games left, it would take a minor miracle for the Hurricanes to make it to the ACC Championship game. Both teams are coming off dominating victories, and bragging rights, as always, will be at stake-so even while the stature of the game itself is diminished, it should still be an entertaining game.
Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech meet on Thursday with the Coastal division lead on the line. Both teams can earn a place in the conference championship game by winning their remaining conference games. A Hokies win gives them some breathing room, but with two conference games remaining against division foes North Carolina and Virginia, anything can happen. If the Yellow Jackets win the game, the last hurdle to a conference championship game appearance is a trip to Durham to face the current Coastal Division cellar dweller Duke.
The remainder of the schedule finds North Carolina State, needing to win two of its final three games to become bowl eligible facing coach Tom O’Brien’s former team, the Boston College Eagles. The Blue Devils, needing to win its remaining three games to become bowl eligible, begin the task against the Cavaliers, who need wins to remain in the Coastal division hunt. Finally, Maryland faces Notre Dame at FedEx Field, in the middle game of the Fighting Irish’s tour of the ACC. The North Carolina Tar Heels are the final conference team to take a bye week.