It was quite a wild ride through the ACC in the 2015 college football season. The conference had its fair share of some wild endings and thrillers and stunners. The conference also placed one team in the College Football Playoff with Clemson managing to run the table this fall, but it was not a walk through the park at times for the Tigers. There were some close calls along the way. Last year's Playoff representative, Florida State, was on the wrong end of a special teams miracle while Miami put together some of the crazier finishes in the ACC this season.
Cutting down the top 10 games in the ACC this season was no small task with all there was to consider, but here are the 10 that made the final cut, and a few that just missed.
Houston 34, Louisville 31: A loss for the ACC, but Louisville made what would turn out to be a very good Houston team earn the victory, forcing the Cougars to come from behind twice in the fourth quarter.
Iowa 27, Pittsburgh 24: Nobody knew what was going to happen with Iowa, but Pat Narduzzi's Panthers gave the Hawkeyes all they could handle before falling on a last-second field goal.
Boston College 76, Howard 0: If for no other reason, it is worth mentioning because Boston College actually showed some offense.
Florida State 27, Florida 2: Florida State manhandled rival Florida and Dalvin Cook put on a show against the Gators' defense in the second half.
Virginia Tech 23, Virginia 20: The Hokies edged their in-state rivals for the 11th straight time, but this one was a little sweeter since it gave Frank Beamer one final bowl game before he retires.
10. Notre Dame 34, Virginia 27 — Sept. 12
The ACC may have taken a loss, but the Virginia Cavaliers pushed Notre Dame to the limit. The game is more notable for being the moment when Deshone Kizer stepped in for the Irish and led them to victory after Malik Zaire left with a fractured ankle. The game was a true back-and-forth affair with Notre Dame dominating one quarter, Virginia responding the next, the Irish swinging back in the third and Virginia fighting back in the fourth before failing to finish.
Will Fuller hauled in a 39-yard pass from Kizer with just 12 seconds to play in the game. Kizer picked up a key four-yard run on a 4th-and-2 from the Notre Dame 28-yard line and then completed his next two passes for first downs to set up the game-winning touchdown play.
9. North Carolina 30, Virginia Tech 27 — Nov. 21
North Carolina looked like an easy favorite to wrap up the ACC Coastal after blowing away Duke and Miami with big point totals, but the Hokies brought plenty of fight and never quit in the final home game under Frank Beamer. UNC took a seemingly commanding 24-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter but Virginia Tech scored twice in the final three minutes to force overtime. Two lost fumbles by UNC led to those two Virginia Tech touchdowns in storybook fashion, but Quinshad Davis caught a five-yard touchdown pass from Marquise Williams to push past the Hokies in overtime.
8. Clemson 20, Louisville 17 — Sept. 17
One of the early tests for Clemson came in Week 3 with a Thursday night road trip to Louisville, which figured to be one of the tougher defensive tests for the Tigers. Louisville losing its first two games of the season took some steam out of the matchup's notoriety, but the Cardinals lived up to the hype of presenting a tough challenge for Clemson.
Deshaun Watson and Louisville's Kyle Bolin were each picked off twice, but Wayne Gallman put together a 139-yard performance on the ground for Clemson and Watson completed two touchdown passes. Clemson put up 401 yards of offense and held on for a close win in the fourth quarter despite giving up a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown to Traveon Samuel.
7. Duke 45, Virginia Tech 43 (4OT) — Oct. 24
Duke and Virginia Tech traded scores all afternoon in Blacksburg and went to overtime tied 24-24. Then things got really crazy. The Blue Devils and Hokies played four overtimes, first exchanging field goals and then swapping touchdowns before matching field goals in the third overtime (Virginia Tech needed a 40-yard field goal to force a fourth overtime).
The Hokies scored a touchdown in the fourth overtime when Travon McMillian pushed across from the goal line, but a mandatory two-point try failed. Duke capitalized on their two-point opportunity following a 25-yard pass from Thomas Sirk to Erich Schneider on its first play of the fourth overtime. The game lifted Duke to 6-1 at the time and dropped Virginia Tech to 3-5.
6. Clemson 23, Florida State 13 — Nov. 7
It seems mandatory that the Clemson-Florida State game has to be on this list every year. This year's game lost some steam once Florida State was upset two weeks prior (we'll get to that one soon, I promise), and the Seminoles were a bit banged up outside of Dalvin Cook. As good as Cook was this season, he could not do it all against a well-equipped Clemson team. Deshaun Watson passed for 297 yards and ran for 107 yards and Wayne Gallman rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown to provide too much offense for Florida State to clamp down. Cook was great though, rushing for 194 yards and a touchdown in a losing effort.
5. Miami 36, Nebraska 33 (OT) — Sept. 19
It was a game Miami dominated, and then didn't, and then escaped in overtime and boy was it a lot of fun to watch. The Hurricanes jumped all over the struggling Cornhuskers in the first quarter with a 17-0 opening frame, as Brad Kaaya was locked in en route to a 379-yard performance. Miami built a decisive 33-10 lead early in the fourth quarter, which is when Nebraska pulled off quite the comeback in the second half over the final 11 minutes of regulation. Nebraska had three touchdown drives of at least 75 yards in the fourth quarter for 23 straight points with a pair of two-point conversions in the mix. Tommy Armstrong hit three touchdown passes in the rally, including the game-tying score to Stanley Morgan Jr. with 33 seconds to play.
The magic ran out in regulation time for Armstrong though. Miami's Corn Elder picked off Armstrong on the first play of overtime. Nebraska took a bad unnecessary roughness penalty on the play as well, which allowed Miami to start their overtime possession on the Nebraska 12-yard line. Miami played for a field goal from there, and the Hurricanes hit it for the wild win.
4. Miami 30, Duke 27 — Oct. 31
It was quite a wild season for Miami, and they had another bizarre ending on Halloween. Fast-forward to the final three minutes of the game. Miami led Duke 24-12 with 5:54 to play, but the Blue Devils drove 75 yards for a touchdown to cut the lead to 24-19 with 2:40 to play. After the defense held Miami to a three-and-out, Duke drove 80 yards over 10 plays to score the go-ahead touchdown (27-24) with just six seconds to play. Then the controversial kick return happened.
Miami lateraled the kickoff return eight times, at least once that should not have counted, and Corn Elder once again came up with the big play as he got credit for the 91-yard, walk-off touchdown return for a controversial win.
3. Clemson 24, Notre Dame 22 — Oct. 3
This was the game where Clemson officially became recognized as a worthy national title contender. Hosting No. 6 Notre Dame in the rain that flooded parts of South Carolina, the Tigers started fast and had to hold on for a nail-biter of a win against the Irish. Brian Kelly's decision to go for two points in the fourth quarter following an early touchdown may have come back to haunt him, but each team came away with a bit of a character-building performance. Clemson's defense forced four turnovers, including three fumble recoveries, but Clemson had to win despite being outgained 432-296. Clemson jumped six spots in the AP poll as a result of the game, which helped set up Clemson's national title campaign and run.
2. Clemson 45, North Carolina 37 — Dec. 5
The most attractive ACC Championship Game in the history of the conference saw No. 1 Clemson look to complete an undefeated regular season and lock up a spot in the College Football Playoff, and No. 10 North Carolina make a case for top one-loss team in consideration for the final four. North Carolina presented Clemson with its best opposing offensive threat of the season, but the Tigers made sure UNC quarterback Marquise Williams would be off the mark. Despite tossing three touchdowns, Williams completed just 11 of his 33 pass attempts. Clemson's Deshaun Watson had a better showing, completing 26-of-42 for 289 yards and three touchdowns, but UNC made sure Clemson kept its foot on the gas from start to finish.
Clemson took a 42-23 lead early in the fourth quarter but UNC chipped away with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. After cutting the lead to 45-37 with 1:13 to play, UNC appeared to recover an onsides kick but the play was waved off due to a controversial offsides penalty on UNC. Clemson managed to hold on for the win as a result and advanced as the top seed in the College Football Playoff.
1. Georgia Tech 22, Florida State 16 — Oct. 24
Two years ago Alabama fell victim to a Kick-Six against rival Auburn. That result dramatically changed the landscape of the SEC and national championship picture. The stakes were not quite as high on Oct. 24 in Atlanta between Georgia Tech and Florida State, but it was no less stunning.
Georgia Tech's defense played a solid game against Florida State by holding Dalvin Cook to just 82 yards on the ground and 50 receiving yards. Everett Golson was 20-of-30 with his passing attempts but was picked off once and never got the Seminoles in the end zone. Florida State held a 16-10 lead on the Yellow Jackets going into halftime and then never scored again. Georgia Tech tied Florida State at 16-16 with a Harrison Butker 35-yard field goal with 54 seconds to play. It looked as though overtime was coming, but Florida State had to burn a timeout on its second play from scrimmage following a short run by Cook and Golson threw two incomplete passes on the drive. On 2nd-and-15, following a pass completion, Florida State again burned a timeout with 10 seconds to play, only to see Golson throw another incomplete pass. Florida State set up for a 55-yard field goal attempt by sure-footed Roberto Aguayo, but Georgia Tech blocked the field goal and Lance Austin returned it 78 yards for a walk-off touchdown and a huge upset of the No. 9 Seminoles.
The result of the game, at the time, seemed to be a big hit to the ACC's chances of reaching the College Football Playoff. Fortunately for the ACC, Clemson and North Carolina held up their end of the bargain to keep the ACC in the Playoff picture. Florida State took a second loss a couple of weeks later at Clemson but managed to finish the regular season on a strong note with a dominating victory over Florida and received a spot in the New Year's Six lineup against AAC champion Houston.
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
(Top photo courtesy of Getty Images)