It happened in the ACC last fall and we are seeing it play out on the basketball court this winter. Winning conference games doesn't have the same helpful impact when league teams failed to win in non-conference action. The image of the league takes a hit with non-conference defeats and as a result, the quality of the ACC wins is viewed in a different light.
Therefore, winning games versus other Power 5 teams is extremely important for ACC programs next fall, especially early in the season.
Most Intriguing Non-Conference Games of 2022 by Power 5 Conference: ACC I Big 12 I Big Ten I Pac-12 I SEC
Here are 10 contests that will not only be fun to watch, but also will play a key role in the perception of the league in 2022.
10. Purdue at Syracuse, Sept. 17
The Orange open with Louisville at home before going on the road for what should be an easy victory at UConn. Then the Boilermakers come to central New York. Purdue will be without star wide receiver David Bell and defensive end George Karlaftis, but getting a win over a solid Big Ten team would do wonders for the resume of both Syracuse and the league.
9. Texas Tech at NC State, Sept. 17
On that same Saturday, the Red Raiders will come to Raleigh to play a Wolfpack squad that will be getting Top 25 attention. This will be a good measuring stick game for NC State as new head coach Joey Maguire's Red Raiders will play Houston the week before. This is the toughest non-conference game for the Wolfpack and if they are to be considered one of the nation’s best teams, it’s one they simply can’t afford to lose.
8. Ole Miss at Georgia Tech, Sept. 17
The third weekend in September is shaping up to be pretty big for ACC teams. As happens seemingly every year, Georgia Tech has a brutal non-conference slate that this time around includes a game at UCF and the traditional Thanksgiving weekend showdown with Georgia. But their first real non-conference test will be the Rebels and it’s always fun when Lane Kiffin comes to town.
7. North Carolina at Appalachian State, Sept. 3
The Tar Heels open in week zero against FCS opponent Florida A&M, but this will be the opener for the Mountaineers. And most assuredly, the people of Boone will be very excited to see the state's signature institution run out onto the field at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The two schools have battled just twice with both games being played in Chapel Hill, though App State was not fazed by their 2019 road trip, holding off the Heels in a 34-31 victory.
6. Tennessee at Pittsburgh, Sept. 10
Last year, Pittsburgh went down to Knoxville and won the Johnny Majors Bowl 41-34. But Tennessee gradually improved during the course of Josh Heupel's first season and this could very well be a matchup of two Top 25 teams when they meet in the Steel City in week two.
5. Florida at Florida State, Nov. 25
Some of the shine has come off this game in recent years with both programs not performing up to expectations. But 2022 could be different. It is the dawning of the Billy Napier era in Gainesville and progress in year three will be crucial for Mike Norvell in Tallahassee.
4. West Virginia at Pittsburgh, Sept. 1
Week one opens up on a Thursday night with the renewal of the Backyard Brawl. A series that started in 1895 was put on the shelf after 2011 when both schools left the Big East for their current conferences. Pittsburgh holds an all-time 61-40-3 edge though West Virginia won the last meeting which helped push them to a spot in the Orange Bowl.
3. Florida State vs. LSU (New Orleans), Sept. 4
Brian Kelly has matched wits with Mike Norvell each of the past two seasons and he will again, except this time he will be coaching LSU instead of Notre Dame. It is likely that neither team will be in the preseason Top 25, but a win in this stand-alone game played in the Caesars Superdome on Labor Day Sunday will provide a major boost for the rest of the year.
2. Miami at Texas A&M, Sept. 17
The biggest early-season ACC non-conference game comes when the Hurricanes invade Kyle Field as part of that monster Sept. 17 schedule. Loaded with a historic recruiting class to accompany an already potent roster, Jimbo Fisher's Aggies will enter the 2022 season thinking that they can unseat Alabama in the SEC West. This will be Mario Cristobal's first real test as head coach of Miami.
1. Clemson at Notre Dame, Nov. 5
The two powerhouse programs that have national title aspirations every year will again square off in South Bend on the first Saturday in November. The setup was the same in 2020 and the result was perhaps the game of the year, a 47-40 overtime victory for the Irish. Clemson is hoping that quarterback DJ Uiagalelei is more like the guy that shined in that game than the player that struggled for much of 2021.
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– 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.