Athlon looks back on the best ACC games in a memorable 2013 campaign.
The 2013 college football regular season had distinct and unique character. The No. 2 team in the nation didn’t lose every weekend like in 2007. And one player didn’t captivate the nation like Cam Newton in 2010 or Johnny Manziel last fall.
Every major conference race — and some of the smaller ones as well — came down to the final weekend, and, in some cases, the final moments of the final game. It was a season to remember for college football fans. Especially, for those in Durham or Tallahassee.
So that is what Athlon Sports is going to do. For some, this will be a stroll down memory lane while others may develop reoccurring nightmares. Here are the ACC’s most entertaining and pivotal games of the 2013 season.
1. Clemson 38, Georgia 35 (Aug. 31)
It was hyped all summer long and the two top 10 teams delivered in a big way. Tajh Boyd and Aaron Murray teamed with Sammy Watkins and Todd Gurley to give fans in rabid Death Valley big play after big play. This anticipated non-conference season-opener was either tied or within one score for all but six minutes and ended with Tigers fans chanting “A-C-C” deep into the night in South Carolina.
2. Duke 27, North Carolina 25 (Nov. 30)
With an outright Coastal Division championship on the line, Duke battled its arch in-state rival to the bitter end of the regular season. The red-hot Tar Heels had won five straight games and gave Duke all they could handle, going back-and-forth with the Devils and eventually taking a late fourth-quarter lead. But like it had all season, Duke found a way to win when Ross Martin hit a 27-yard field goal with 2:22 left to play. The win gave David Cutcliffe an outright division championship and Duke its first 10-win season in school history.
3. Georgia 41, Georgia Tech 34 (2OT, Nov. 30)
The Dawgs, playing without Aaron Murray for the first time since 2009, trailed 20-0 to begin the game. But slowly new quarterback Hutson Mason settled in and led the offense to 10 unanswered points to send the game into overtime. Vad Lee set a career high in passing yards but it wasn't enough to overcome a late-game performance from Todd Gurley — who scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime to win one of the best-named rivalry games in the nation.
4. Florida State 51, Clemson 14 (Oct. 19)
The most high-profile conference game in the ACC turned out to be quite a dud. But the performance by Jameis Winston in Death Valley won’t be soon forgotten. The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner completed 22-of-34 passes for 444 yards and three touchdowns in the impressive statement victory. The win set the Seminoles soaring towards the national championship and put Winston directly into the heart of the Heisman race.
5. Miami 21, Florida 16 (Sept. 7)
At the time it took place, few games meant more to the ACC’s bruised reputation than Miami’s physical win over then-No. 12 Florida. The Sunshine State conversation had been dominated by the SEC for years until the Canes broke through early in the season with a win in a game that had been talked about all summer. Miami’s defense made big plays all game long, indicating development and growth from the year before.
6. Miami 27, North Carolina 23 (Oct. 17)
On a Thursday night on the road, unbeaten Miami won a dramatic and thrilling divisional tilt that vaulted the Canes well into the AP poll's top 10. Trailing 23-13 and without Duke Johnson, Miami turned to Dallas Crawford and the power running game to score two touchdowns in the final 12 minutes, including the game-winner with 16 seconds left. Tar Heels tight end Eric Ebron had a historic night catching eight passes for 199 yards and a touchdown. It wasn’t enough, however, as Miami moved to 6-0 for the first time in a decade.
7. Florida State 48, Boston College 34 (Sept. 28)
Boston College did something that Clemson, Duke, Florida State or Maryland didn’t even come close to doing. The Eagles kept the game with Noles close for much of the contest. In fact, Florida State needed a Hail Mary at the end of the half to take its first lead. Eventually, the Seminoles wore down BC and took a 48-27 lead midway through the fourth on a P.J. Williams interception return for a touchdown. No other team scored more than 17 on FSU and the 14-point margin was by far the smallest for Jimbo Fisher’s bunch.
8. Duke 13, Virginia Tech 10 (Oct. 26)
It was an ugly affair wrought with turnovers and inefficiency. Duke was outgained 387 to 198, didn’t convert on any of its 11 third-down chances, didn’t complete a pass in the second half and lost the possession battle by 19 minutes (39:27 to 20:33). But the opportunistic defense forced four turnovers, including a late, game-clinching play, and broke through against a ranked team on the road for the first time in 42 years. The win catapulted Duke into the ACC title talk and it happened in typically dramatic fashion.
9. Duke 48, Miami 30 (Nov. 16)
Two teams battling for Coastal Division supremacy went toe-to-toe for the first 50 minutes or so in what was an electric shootout. Miami held the lead with three minutes left in the third quarter when Duke went on a dramatic 20-point run. A 33-yard Shaquille Powell run with 6:50 to go in the game ended the see-saw affair and gave Duke control of its own destiny in the divisional race.
10. Miami 24, Wake Forest 21 (Oct. 26)
The Demon Deacons came into play against the unbeaten Canes a heavy underdog and played arguably the best game of their season in defeat. An evenly played and tough first half gave way to a back-and-forth affair that saw momentum swing three separate times in the final five minutes. Duke Johnson twice scored go-ahead touchdowns in the final few minutes with the last one coming with just 53 seconds left. It sealed the Miami win and kept the Hurricanes unblemished on the season.
Just missed the cut:
11. Georgia Tech 28, North Carolina 20 (Sept. 21)
An early-season tilt featured a big Tech comeback in the rain in Atlanta.
12. Maryland 27, Virginia Tech 24 (OT, Nov. 16)
C.J. Brown led his team to victory with 122 yards rushing and the game-winning touchdown in overtime.
13. Florida State 37, Florida 7 (Nov. 30)
The Noles capped the season with a celebratory whipping of its SEC counterpart.
14. Florida State 45, Duke 7 (Dec. 7)
Hugely important but largely uneventful after a pesky first quarter.
15. Virginia Tech 29, Marshall 21 (3OT, Sept. 21)
A thriller Tech was lucky to win featured three OTs and plenty of big plays.
Best of the Rest:
16. Pitt 58, Duke 55 (Sept. 21)
17. Syracuse 34, Boston College 31 (Nov. 30)
18. Clemson 24, Boston College 14 (Oct. 12)
19. Boston College 34, Virginia Tech 27 (Nov. 2)
20. Duke 28, Wake Forest 21 (Nov. 23)
21. Virginia Tech 17, Georgia Tech 10 (Sept. 26)
22. Boston College 29, Maryland 26 (Nov. 23)
23. Florida State 41, Miami 14 (Nov. 2)
24. Virginia Tech 27, North Carolina 17 (Oct. 5)
25. Clemson 40, Maryland 27 (Oct. 26)