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The ACC's Best College Football Games of 2018

The ACC's Best College Football Games of 2018

The ACC's Best College Football Games of 2018

The transition from 2018 to '19 marks an era of change in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Gone are head coaches Paul Johnson and Mark Richt to retirement, while Bobby Petrino and Larry Fedora were dismissed. In comes Geoff Collins, Manny Diaz, Scott Satterfield, and the return of the Mack... Brown.

But while a not-insignificant portion of the ACC retools, the 2018 season solidified that the conference has a clear benchmark to which everyone else aspires: Clemson.

The Tigers claimed the third national championship for the ACC in six years, along the way surviving some tough tests. Clemson's time in the spotlight headlined the 2018 ACC docket, but the conference's other members provided their own memorable moments.

10 Best ACC Games of 2018

10. Georgia Tech 66, Louisville 31 – Oct. 5

College football rankings: Louisville
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A 35-point game that was not nearly as close as the final point margin would not often qualify as a "best" game. An exception is when it serves as a final exclamation mark in the career of a head coach like Paul Johnson.

Before arriving at Georgia Tech, Johnson resurrected a then-moribund Navy program and laid the foundation for a perennial winner that has had Top 25 finishes and a Heisman-worthy quarterback in the 2010s. He shipped up to Annapolis after continuing the success of legendary Erk Russell at Georgia Southern, winning the last two of the program's six Div. I-AA national championships. Johnson won at both stops with variations of the same triple-option offense that became Georgia Tech's defining trait for the past decade.

In the mid-2000s, Brian VanGorder stepped in at Georgia Southern and scrapped the scheme, all the while appearing in an ad campaign that promised, "There Is No Option." As Louisville defensive coordinator in 2018, he may have wished that mantra held universally true. Georgia Tech rolled up an astonishing 542 rushing yards with eight touchdowns, and attempted just two passes on the night.

9. NC State 34, North Carolina 28 (OT) – Nov. 24

North Carolina Football Schedule 2019
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The in-state rivalry between North Carolina and NC State does not feature a trophy. Should the programs choose to introduce one, however, a pair of gold-plated boxing gloves might be fitting after this year's installment.

Players from the two teams coming to blows in the aftermath overshadowed what was an entertaining, back-and-forth game that exemplified the most often-repeated cliche about rivalries: Throw out the records. NC State came in with a Top 25 ranking, but no tangible motivation beyond pride. North Carolina's season had been a mess, resulting in the dismissal of Larry Fedora. The Tar Heels could have opted to just get the season over with and head into the Mack Brown Era, Ver. 2.0 as quickly as possible.

Instead, the two exchanged proverbial punches on the turf for the game's duration, with neither side ever leading by more than a single score. The rivalry contest marked a coming-out party of sorts for quarterback Cade Fortin, who threw for two touchdowns and rushed for a third. That wasn't enough to outdo NC State running back Reggie Gallaspy, who scored all five of the Wolfpack's touchdowns.

8. Florida State 22, Boston College 21 – Nov. 17

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College Football Top 25 Rankings: FSU

A season that kicked off with a Top 25 ranking proved to be an exercise in undue optimism for Florida State. It became evident quickly into Willie Taggart's first season as head coach that the program needed a lot of work, as the Seminoles were blasted in Week 1 by Virginia Tech, then needed a comeback to beat FCS opponent Samford in Week 2.

For all the misfires that defined Florida State's trying 2018, the latter portion of the campaign provided a building block for 2019. The Seminoles rallied in the fourth quarter to knock off a good Boston College team, 22-21, notching the winning score on a 74-yard Tamorrion Terry reception from Deondre Francois.

7. Wake Forest 37, Memphis 34 – Dec. 22

College Football Rankings: Memphis Football
Wake Forest: college football picks against the spread

Quarterback Jamie Newman delivered one of the best individual performances of the postseason, rushing for three touchdowns and passing for a fourth in Wake Forest's thrilling defeat of Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl. Newman's heroics — which included the game-winning score with just 34 seconds remaining — outdueled the tandem effort of Memphis' Patrick Taylor Jr. and Tony Pollard, who both rushed for more than 100 yards, picking up the slack for All-American Darrell Henderson.

6. Miami 28, Florida State 27 – Oct. 6

College Football Top 25 Rankings: FSU
College Football Top 25 Rankings: Miami

The best description for football in the Sunshine State during the 2018 season is partly cloudy. UCF reached an impressive 25 consecutive wins en route to the Fiesta Bowl, Florida enjoyed a resurgence in Dan Mullen's first season as Gators head coach, and FIU set a program record for wins. But the state also endured USF's stunning 0-6 finish after a 7-0 start; FAU fading from national darling to out of the bowl picture; and both Florida State and Miami wilting after buzzworthy offseasons.