The ACC is the last of the power five conferences to unveil its 2014 league slate - some 218 days before opening night - but, in terms of pitting the highest possible number of interesting games between good teams (look at you, SEC), it's clearly the best. John Swofford's league struck gold again.
First, some housekeeping. Maryland is gone, and has been replaced by Louisville. Notre Dame has joined as an affiliate member for football, and will play five games annually against ACC foes. The conference that claims the defending national champions and the reigning Orange Bowl champions just got a lot better.
Let's start with the newcomers. The ACC has again claimed its traditional place of television real estate on Labor Day night of Sept. 1 and will use it to spotlight Louisville's first game as a conference member against Miami. Bobby Petrino can only hope his ACC debut is half as successful as Jameis Winston's. (Side note: Miami closed the 2003 season against Florida State in the Orange Bowl, and then opened 2004 against the Seminoles. A decade later, the Canes repeat history. Miami and Louisville, of course, ended their 2013 seasons in a 38-9 Cardinals win in the Russell Athletic Bowl.) The Cardinals travel to Clemson on Oct. 11, host Florida State on Oct. 30 (a Thursday), travel to Notre Dame on Nov. 22 and close the year at home against Kentucky on Nov. 29. I'm going to go ahead and declare 2014 the best schedule in Louisville football history.
Now the part-timer. The genius of the ACC move for Notre Dame was that the Fighting Irish found a better home for their Olympic sports at the price of a four-game guarantee with ACC schools.... and the ACC was already Notre Dame's most frequent opponent outside of the Big Ten. Notre Dame's 2014 quote-unquote conference slate - at Syracuse on Sept. 27, vs. North Carolina on Oct. 11, at Florida State on Oct. 18, vs. Louisville on Nov. 22 - isn't out of the ordinary for the Irish to begin with.
Next, let's spotlight the defending national champions. The ACC has done everything in its power to help Florida State defend its national championship with an off date before hosting Clemson on Oct. 11 and an off date before visiting Louisville on Oct. 30. Florida State opens the season against Oklahoma State at AT&T Stadium in Dallas on Aug. 30 (the site of January's College Football Playoff championship game), and closes the year with Florida on Nov. 29 at Doak Campbell Stadium. The 'Noles will be mainstays on national TV in 2014.
Finally, some quick-hits.
ACC non-conference games of note: Florida State vs. Oklahoma State (Aug. 30, at Dallas), Clemson at Georgia (Aug. 30), UCLA at Virginia (Aug. 30), Virginia Tech at Ohio State (Sept. 6), USC at Boston College (Sept. 13), Miami at Nebraska (Sept. 20), Iowa at Pittsburgh (Sept. 20), Virginia at BYU (Sept. 20), Maryland at Syracuse (Sept. 20), Cincinnati at Miami (Oct. 11), Florida at Florida State (Nov. 29), Georgia Tech at Georgia (Nov. 29), Kentucky at Louisville (Nov. 29).
Weeknight games (because this is the ACC, where they practically invented Thursday night football): Louisiana-Monroe at Wake Forest (Thursday, Aug. 28), Miami at Louisville (Monday, Sept. 1), Pittsburgh at Boston College (Friday, Sept. 5), Louisville at Syracuse (Friday, Oct. 3), Miami at Virginia Tech (Thursday, Oct. 23), Florida State at Louisville (Thursday, Oct. 30), Clemson at Wake Forest (Thursday, Nov. 6), North Carolina at Duke (Thursday, Nov. 20), Virginia at Virginia Tech (Friday, Nov. 28).