For the first time in years, the ACC entered the season as a must-see conference.
The defending national champions and controversial reigning Heisman Trophy winner made ACC Media Days more of a circus than even the four-day SEC extravaganza in Birmingham.
But it wasn’t just the Jameis Winston spectacle that created intrigue in the ACC this preseason. John Swofford welcomed Louisville and Notre Dame to his ranks, boosting the number of nationally watched games instantly. New faces under center created unknowns and subsequent excitement across the entire conference. The usually impossible to predict Coastal Division was even more difficult to forecast than normal.
And to top it all off, college football welcomed a four-team Playoff to the mix. It’s safe to say no one will ever forget the 2014 season. Here were the most memorable ACC games of the year:
1. (2) Florida St 31, (5) Notre Dame 27
Oct. 18, Tallahassee
It’s hard to make an entire nation root for the usually hated Fighting Irish but that is what the Seminoles were able to do in this battle of top-five teams. An evenly matched bout most of the way, Winston led the Noles on a game-winning touchdown drive with just under eight minutes to go. Not to be outdone, Everett Golson moved the Irish to the FSU two-yard line before the infamous pick penalty erased the game-winning score and pushed ND back to the 18-yard line on fourth down. Winston was star of the show again, going 15-of-16 in the second half.
2. (16) Georgia Tech 30, (9) Georgia 24 (OT)
Nov. 29, Athens
It didn’t really mean much in the standings or rankings but the 109th edition of Clean, Old Fashioned Hate won’t ever be forgotten by either side. Paul Johnson and Tech entered the game on a five-game losing streak against UGA but pulled off one of the most dramatic wins in series history. Georgia scored with 18 seconds to go to seemingly win a sixth straight over the in-state rival but somehow Justin Thomas ran his team into field goal range on the ensuing possession. Harrison Butker drilled a 53-yarder to tie the game as time expired and, after a missed extra point nonetheless, the Jackets' defense kept the Dawgs out of the end zone for the win.
3. (4) Florida St 37, (11) Georgia Tech 35
Dec. 6, Charlotte
A year’s worth of close calls and near misses for the defending champions had most predicting the upset in the ACC Championship Game. After allowing boatloads of yards in the first half, it looked like Tech would be up to the task. However, the Seminoles' defense tightened in the second half and Winston, like always, led multiple scoring drives in the final 20 minutes of play. It was just enough for Florida State to win its third consecutive ACC title.
4. (1) Florida St 23, (22) Clemson 17 (OT)
Sept. 20, Tallahassee
The day before the big Atlantic Division showdown, Jimbo Fisher suspended his star quarterback for the entire game. Clemson, buoyed by a confident defense and the emergence of true freshman DeShaun Watson at quarterback, played mostly excellent football for 58 minutes. But a gut-wrenching fumble deep in Florida State territory with two minutes to play and a questionable fourth-down decision in overtime left the Tigers dumbstruck when the final whistle blew. Florida State had done it again, this time with Sean Maguire under center.
5. (3) Florida State 30, Miami 26
Nov. 15, Coral Gables
Once again, FSU started out slowly, trailing both 16-0 and 23-7 in the second quarter. But Winston and tailback Dalvin Cook flipped a switch in the second half, as Florida State went on a 23-3 run, scoring on four drives in the second half. Cook sprinted 26 yards with 3:05 left in the game to give the Noles their 26th straight win and fifth in a row over the archrival Hurricanes. Winston and Brad Kaaya both topped 300 yards passing.
6. (2) Florida St 42, (25) Louisville 31
Oct. 30, Louisville
Stop me when you’ve heard this before? Florida State stumbled out of the gate in primetime on a Thursday night in Papa John’s Stadium. Michael Dyer led a surging Cardinals squad to a 21-0 second-quarter lead before a fortunate bounce helped FSU get into the end zone with just 33 seconds left before halftime. The second half was the James Winston and Dalvin Cook show, as the duo combined for five touchdowns — all of which came from at least 35 yards away. The Noles finished on a 42-10 run over the final 31 minutes of play.
7. Virginia Tech 35, (8) Ohio St 21
Sept. 6, Columbus
This was one of the biggest upsets of the year regardless of conference. The Hokies rattled and tormented J.T. Barrett all night in a shocking two-touchdown win in Columbus. The victory didn’t help Tech go on to bigger or better things, as the Hokies' season topped out with the win over the Buckeyes and the loss didn’t hurt OSU enough to knock them out of the College Football Playoff. But it was a memorable night for college football and VT quarterback Michael Brewer.
8. (24) Duke 51, Pitt 48 (2OT)
Nov. 1, Pittsburgh
These two teams combined for 62 first downs, over 1,000 yards of offense and not one turnover in this double-overtime thriller. James Conner did everything he could for Pitt, rushing for 263 yards and three scores but an appropriately named kicker, Chris Blewitt, missed a 26-yard field goal as time expired in regulation. Duke’s backup quarterback then led the Blue Devils into the end zone in the second overtime for the win.
9. Boston College 37, (9) USC 31
Sept. 13, Chestnutt Hill
Steve Addazio’s excellent tenure at BC was highlighted by this top-10 victory. Against USC, the Eagles produced one of the most remarkable statistics of the year. Boston College rushed for 452 yards against one of the better Pac-12 defenses. Tyler Murphy counted for 191 of those yards, 66 coming on BC’s final TD of the game with 3:30 left in the game, and the defense did just enough to hold USC at bay.
10. (22) Louisville 44, Kentucky 40
Nov. 29, Louisville
The newest ACC-SEC rivalry has had a long history of animosity, but few games in the Bluegrass State series have been as entertaining. The two teams combined for 33 fourth-quarter points and produced four lead changes in the final nine minutes of action. The Cardinals' Kyle Bollin came out of nowhere to produce 381 yards passing and Boom Williams rushed for 126 and two scores for Kentucky.
The Best of the Rest:
11. (24) Louisville 31, N. Dame 28
12. (3) Florida St 24, Florida 19
13. Clemson 23, Louisville 17
14. (21) Clemson 35, S. Carolina 17
15. (1) Florida St 37, Oklahoma St 31
16. Georgia Tech 27, Virginia Tech 24
17. Georgia Tech 42, Ga. Southern 38
18. (6) N. Dame 50, N. Carolina 43
19. East Carolina 28, (17) Virginia Tech 21
20. (1) Florida St 56, NC State 41
21. N. Carolina 48, Georgia Tech 43
22. (3) Florida St 20, B. College 17
23. N. Carolina 31, San Diego St 27
24. Colorado St 24, B. College 21
25. Virginia 23, (21) Louisville 21
BONUS: Worst Game of the Year
Wake Forest 6, Virginia Tech 3 (2OT)
Nov. 22, Winston-Salem
Is there any doubt this wasn't the worst game of the entire 2014 football season, regardless of conference? A 0-0 tie in regulation is as bad as it gets.