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ACC Football: 6 New Games to be Excited About

Ian Book, Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football

Ian Book, Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football

College football's 2020 schedule and overall season is going to look a lot different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Wednesday, the ACC took a step forward in its quest to play this fall by releasing an updated and revamped 2020 schedule. While the dates aren't set, we know the opponents for all 15 teams this fall. While a good chunk of the schedule remained the same, there were some intriguing additions to the slate. Notre Dame-North Carolina could have a major impact on which team plays in the ACC Championship Game, while Clemson at Virginia Tech is an interesting crossover matchup that wasn't slated to take place on the original 2020 schedule.

With the ACC's revamped schedule released, here are six new contests that caught our attention for 2020:

ACC Football: 6 New Games to be Excited About

1. Notre Dame at North Carolina

This added showdown between the Fighting Irish and Tar Heels could decide which team plays Clemson in the ACC title game. Athlon’s 2020 predictions (prior to the schedule changes) projected Notre Dame to finish No. 9 nationally, with North Carolina checking in at No. 18. This matchup also features a standout quarterback battle between Sam Howell (North Carolina) and Ian Book (Notre Dame). These two teams last played in 2017, with the Fighting Irish winning 33-10 in Chapel Hill.

2. Clemson at Virginia Tech

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we don’t know how much of a crowd will be in Lane Stadium – or if fans will even be allowed. However, even if the attendance is sparse, Clemson going on the road to Blacksburg is still an excellent addition for the ACC slate. With a high-powered offense led by quarterback Trevor Lawrence and running back Travis Etienne, along with a standout defense, the Tigers are Athlon’s pick to win the national title in 2020. Virginia Tech ranked No. 24 in Athlon’s 2020 Top 25 projection and an experienced two-deep is in place for coach Justin Fuente’s squad. The Hokies feature a rising star in quarterback Hendon Hooker, along with one of the league’s top defenses under new coordinator Justin Hamilton. Clemson has won five in a row against Virginia Tech.

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3. Florida State at Notre Dame

With the tradition and outstanding uniforms boasted by both programs, it doesn’t get much better than Florida State and Notre Dame meeting on the gridiron. The Fighting Irish pounded the Seminoles 42-13 in 2018 and will be favored once again. Quarterback Ian Book returns after throwing for 3,034 yards and 34 scores last season and is supported by a line that returns all five starters. The Fighting Irish have a few holes to plug on defense but shouldn’t slip too far on the stat sheet. New Florida State coach Mike Norvell has a tough task ahead in his first year in Tallahassee. The former Memphis coach didn’t get a full spring to install his systems on both sides of the ball and inherits an offense with uncertainty at quarterback and up front.

4. Miami at Clemson

These two teams have played only six times since Miami joined the ACC in 2004. Additionally, the last meeting between these two teams in Death Valley took place in 2010. The Hurricanes return rising star sophomore end Gregory Rousseau and Temple transfer Quincy Roche to form one of the nation’s top pass-rush combos. That duo has to come up big if Miami is going to have a shot to stay within striking distance against a Clemson offense likely to be firing on all cylinders with Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne back for 2020.

5. Miami at Louisville

Miami defeated Louisville 52-27 in 2019, but it’s safe to assume this matchup will be much closer in 2020. Look for plenty of offense in this one, as the Cardinals bring back eight starters from a unit that averaged 33.1 points a game last fall. The trio of quarterback Micale Cunningham, running back Javian Hawkins and receiver Tutu Atwell will provide plenty of problems for Miami’s defense. The Hurricanes struggled to get their offense on track last season, but there’s optimism thanks to the hire of coordinator Rhett Lashlee and the arrival of transfer quarterback D’Eriq King from Houston.

6. Louisville at Pitt

The Cardinals and Panthers haven’t met since 2015, but this matchup in the Steel City won’t lack for intrigue. Pitt’s defense brings back eight starters off a unit that held teams to 22.5 points a game and led the ACC in rush defense. Coach Pat Narduzzi’s group can get after the quarterback with Patrick Jones, Jalen Twyman and Rashad Weaver back in the trenches. Pitt’s defense will battle a Louisville offense that ranked near the top of the ACC in scoring and brings back two preseason Athlon Sports All-Americans in running back Javian Hawkins and receiver Tutu Atwell. The Cardinals have a relatively favorable schedule in the revamped edition. However, this trip to Pittsburgh won’t be easy.