Clemson welcomes Texas A&M to Death Valley and closes the regular season with a road game against rival South Carolina
The calendar is depressing for hard-core college football fans. When four months of continuous activity is completed, it is followed by eight months of anticipation. So what do we do? We look ahead, of course.
Eventually to Aug. 24, the Saturday of the week zero games, marking the arrival of the 2019 season when the excitement will begin anew. The ACC docket gets going the following Thursday night with a conference tilt between Clemson and Georgia Tech. But for the most part, the month of September consists of non-conference battles, some of which will be interesting while others will be less appealing.
Here are 10 ACC non-conference games that should be able to capture your attention in 2019.
10. Duke vs. Alabama (Atlanta), Aug. 31
David Cutcliffe, the former offensive coordinator at Tennessee and head coach at Ole Miss, will renew acquaintances with the Crimson Tide. Duke may take a step back with quarterback Daniel Jones off to the NFL and Alabama never regresses, but this should be one of the most anticipated games of week one.
9. Georgia Tech vs. Georgia, Nov. 30
Georgia has pulled away from their rival in Atlanta in recent years. But gone is Paul Johnson’s option attack and in at Georgia Tech is a more conventional system implemented by new offensive coordinator Dave Petenaude under head coach Geoff Collins.
8. North Carolina at Wake Forest, Sept. 12
The game at BB&T field does consist of two ACC teams, but it will not count in the league standings. Because UNC and Wake are in different divisions and are not annual crossover rivals, they would have gone without seeing each other for seven years if these games had not been scheduled. As a result, the schools scheduled non-conference games for 2019 and '21.
7. Syracuse at Maryland, Sept. 7
In week two, Dino Babers’ Syracuse offense will try to outscore that of new Terrapins’ head coach Mike Locksley, formerly the offensive coordinator at Alabama. The Cuse are coming off of their best season in more than a decade and Maryland has energy after adding a couple of interesting transfers, including quarterback Josh Jackson from Virginia Tech.
6. Clemson at South Carolina, Nov. 30
South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley will get his last crack at the Tigers when Clemson comes to Williams-Brice to close out the regular season. Once again, it could be a situation where Clemson needs a win to continue their championship dreams.
5. Florida State at Florida, Nov. 30
In a series that has had a history of streaks on both sides, the Gators ended a five-game skid by beating the Seminoles this past season. The Gators will probably be a top-10 team entering the fall and will be hosting a Florida State squad looking to get back on track after two disappointing seasons.
4. Pittsburgh at Penn State, Sept. 14
Well, it was fun while it lasted. After not playing one another for 15 years, the Panthers and the Nittany Lions scheduled a four-game series that began in 2016. Now, time is up and with no plans to renew the series in the near future, this game should be hotly contested on both sides.
3. Florida State vs. Boise State (Jacksonville, Fla.), Aug. 31
Generally, when a Power 5 team schedules a series with a Group of 5 program, that game's location favor the big boy. But in this case, the Noles will play the Broncos in Jacksonville and then go to the (new in 2019) blue turf of Albertsons Stadium in 2020. The Broncos lose star quarterback Brett Rypien, but they will still be a handful for the rebuilding Noles.
2. Miami vs. Florida (Orlando, Fla.), Aug. 31
The ACC has several marquee matchups in week one and the Canes against the Gators is the best of the bunch. It would be much better if this was more than a one-off game for 2019, but it will be fun to watch Miami and Florida battle for just the fifth time in the regular season since '87.
1. Clemson vs. Texas A&M, Sept. 7
After losing to the Tigers by the narrowest of margins last year at Kyle Field, Jimbo Fisher brings an Aggie team with high expectations to a place he knows very well. Fisher was 4-4 against Clemson at Florida State but was just 1-3 in Death Valley.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.