While both Florida State and Clemson took circuitous routes to Saturday's 7:45 p.m. showdown at Death Valley on ESPN, at stake is what many thought would be this summer - ACC Atlantic championship ramifications.
Both teams possessed losing records three weeks ago. Both coaches have their critics. But with a win, either team would be in excellent shape to advance to Tampa Bay.
After an 0-3 start in the conference, the Seminoles (4-4, 2-3 ACC) have won two games in a row and can score with any team in the country.
Dabo Swinney's bunch is out to prove this is a different Clemson team. The Tigers (5-3, 3-2) lost their grasp on the Atlantic in 2006 and 2007.
As a subplot, Bobby Bowden might be extra motivated in a return to Clemson, which allegedly forced out his son last fall. Bowden downplayed the revenge factor Wednesday.
"Tommy's got no hard feelings," said Bowden, who added he's "gotten pretty good" at being gracious to coaches replacing his sons, as three of them - Tommy, Jeff and Terry - have been fired.
The last time the Blue Devils were rolling like this, Steve Spurrier was running the show. David Cutcliffe has Duke in second place in the Coastal Division, which while not uncharted waters, are long-since traveled ones. Duke is one conference win away from its 2000-08 ACC win total.
Mark Whipple's offense at Miami has received a lot of praise but Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel said it's not even in the same league as Jimbo Fisher's. The Florida State offensive coordinator runs perhaps the most diverse offense in the Southeast.
Speaking of Florida State's offense, their quarterback, Ponder, has performed better than the troika of Tim Tebow, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford. And the scary news for ACC defenders is Ponders says he'll be back next season.
Florida State's defense
The struggles continue defensively for the Seminoles, which will have to find a replacement for long-time defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews, who announced Tuesday he will retire at the end of season.
The Bowden brand
A decade ago, Tommy and Bobby Bowden met in the first Bowden Bowl. Tommy was in his first season at Clemson, coming off a perfect season at Tulane. Bobby was in the midst of guiding the Seminoles to a national title, and a season earlier Terry Bowden had led Auburn to an SEC West title. Now they are calling for Bobby Bowden to resign. Tommy Bowden is out of coaching and Terry Bowden is coaching Division II North Alabama.
Snake-bitten N.C. State
With 11 players lost to season-ending injury, the Wolfpack is 0-4 in the ACC and has allowed 176 points during its four ACC games (44 points per game).
BY THE NUMBERS
Days since Duke's last ACC title. Spurrier led the Blue Devils to a 41-0 victory against North Carolina on Nov. 18, 1989.
Days since Bobby Bowden's first win at a FBS school. West Virginia defeated William and Mary, 43-7, on Sept. 12, 1970.
Days since Dabo Swinney's birth - Nov. 20, 1969. Swinney is the youngest head coach in the ACC.
HE SAID IT
I hope I'm the next one who's hurt. I'll take one for the team if it keeps somebody else healthy."
N.C. STATE COACH TOM O'BRIEN
on his injury-ravaged team.