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What are the most important, must-see ACC match-ups of the second half?
-by Braden Gall (@AthlonBraden on twitter)
The the midway point of the 2011 college football in the rearview mirror, so Athlon Sports takes a look at the top must-see games left on the ACC slate.
1. Clemson vs. Georgia Tech (Week 9)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: Tech leads 48-25-2
The rematch of the 2009 ACC championship game could be a preview of the 2011 ACC title bout. Tech won that game - and had won six out of seven - but Clemson handled the Jackets with relative ease last fall 27-13 in Death Valley. This one will be in Atlanta and will feature the top two offenses in the ACC. Tech (at 347 yards rushing per game) leads the conference in scoring, rushing and total offense while the Tigers rank No. 2 in all three categories. How each defense plays quarterback Tevin Washington, who leads the ACC in passer efficiency, and Tajh Boyd, who leads the conference in total offense, will likely be the determining factor.
Athlon's Prediction: Clemson by 3
2. Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech (Week 11)
Nov. 10, All-Time Series: Virginia Tech leads 5-3
The actual and football IQ will be off the charts in this Coastal contest. The home team has won the last three games in this budding rivarly, with all three games decided by one score or less. This Thursday night primetime get together in Atlanta will likely decide the Coastal's representative in the ACC title game. The battle within the battle will be intriguing as the Paul Johnson's ACC-leading rushing attack will go nose to nose with Bud Foster's ACC-leading rush defense. Get the ice-packs ready for this one.
Athlon's Prediction: Virginia Tech by 4
3. Wake Forest vs. Clemson (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: Clemson leads 58-17-1
Wake Forest has lost four of the last five against Clemson and has not won in Death Valley since 1998. However, the Demon Deacons, behind excellent quarterback play, have established themselves as the top challenger to Clemson in the Atlantic Division (thanks to a fourth win in six years over Florida State). One could easily make the case that Tanner Price and Boyd have been the two most important signal callers in the ACC this fall. On paper, the supporting cast for Clemson seems to be a major advantage, but this has been true of nearly every game Jim Grobe has coached at Wake Forest. The Deacs will not be intimidated by the hostile environment and NFL talent of the Clemson Tigers.
Athlon's Prediction: Clemson by 7
4. Miami vs. Florida State (Week 11)
Nov. 12, All-Time Series: Miami leads 31-24
This series was dominated by Miami in the early 2000s, but Florida State has won four of the last six games. The Seminoles have lost the last two games in Tallahassee, including a 38-34 shootout in 2009. Florida State thoroughly handled the Hurricanes last year, winning 45-17, easily the most lopsided final in this series since a 47-0 win by the Seminoles in 1997. The Hurricanes have shown improvement under Al Golden and Jacory Harris is starting to look like an actual BCS quarterback. The Noles dealt with a brutal three-game winning streak but have gotten their swagger back with a dominating win over Duke. This game lacks the luster that the preseason rankings might have indicated, but the passion and intensity will be running high in Tallahassee when these two historic rivals get together.
Athlon’s Prediction: Seminoles by 7
5. Georgia Tech vs. Miami, Fla. (Week 8)
Oct. 22, All-Time Series: Georgia Tech leads 10-6
Miami won four straight from 2005-2008 but have been controlled by Paul Johnson's triple-option threat twice in a row by an average score of 34-14. In fact, the 2009 win at Miami marked only the second time in history that Tech had won on the road in this rivarly (1967). The Canes have proven they are getting better with a quality showing against Virginia Tech and the convincing win over North Carolina. Whichever team can contain the ground game will be the victor in this key Coastal Division showdown.
Athlon's Prediction: Georgia Tech by 1
6. Virginia Tech vs. Virginia (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: 50-37-5
This Commonwealth rivalry has not meant much to the standings of late, but 2011 could finally offer fans some serious ACC implications when the Hokies and Wahoos tangle on Rivarly Saturday. Tech has won seven straight and 11 of 15 in this in-state battle, but Mike London has reenvigorated the overall energy of the Cavs' program. Virginia has plenty of work left to do in order to make this game matter nationally - try NC State, Miami, Maryland, Duke and Florida State. However, as the upset win over Georgia Tech this weekend has shown, Virginia (4-2, 1-1) is quickly becoming a factor again in the ACC.
Athlon's Prediction: Virginia Tech by 10
7. Florida State vs. Florida (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Florida leads 33-20-2
This will be the first matchup of new blood between Florida’s Will Muschamp and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher. The two coaches became close friends during their time as assistants under Nick Saban and will certainly have to put aside personal feelings to square-off in this rivarly. The Gators were embarrassed in Tallahassee last year and will be looking to return the favor, while ruining Florida State’s bragging rights in the Sunshine State. Normally this game carries heavy national title implications, however, bowl eligibility could be on the line for one (or both) if the respective ships aren't righted immediately.
Athlon’s Prediction: Gators by 1
8. Clemson vs. South Carolina (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Clemson leads 65-39-4
The battle for bragging rights in the Palmetto State should be an attractive matchup this year. The Gamecocks, despite major injuries and dismissals, still have eyes on an SEC East title, while Clemson is not only the talk of the ACC but is possibly the biggest surprise in the nation. Clemson has lost the last two in this series, including a 29-7 defeat last year. However, the Tigers have won six of the last overall nine matchups and tensions could be running even higher should the Tigers walk into Columbia with an unblemished record.
Athlon’s Prediction: Clemson by 7
Other games to watch:
Georgia vs. Georgia Tech (Week 13)
Nov. 26, All-Time Series: Georgia leads 61-39-5
North Carolina vs. Clemson (Oct. 22)
Oct. 22, All-Time Series: Clemson leads 34-19-1
Wake Forest vs. North Carolina (Oct. 29)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: North Carolina leads 67-34-2
North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech (Nov. 17)
Oct. 29, All-Time Series: Virginia Tech leads 17-10-6
Virginia vs. Miami, Fla. (Oct. 27)
Oct. 27, All-Time Series: Miami leads 5-3
Virginia vs. Florida State (Nov. 19)
Nov. 19, All-Time Series: Florida State leads 14-2
Notre Dame vs. Wake Forest (Nov. 5)
Nov. 5, All-Time Series: 0-0