This season, the ACC is a tale of two divisions. The Atlantic has Florida State and Clemson, two teams with their eyes on the ultimate prize at the end of the year. On the other side, the majority of the Coastal members believe that they have what it takes to win the division and play the Atlantic champ in the ACC Conference Championship Game in Charlotte, N.C., on Dec. 5.
Despite the differing nature of the two divisions, they both will produce intriguing games this year. Some of the best games to watch are conference clashes that will have a huge bearing on the ACC standings. With national powers Ohio State, Notre Dame, Georgia, Nebraska and Auburn lined up as ACC foes this year; some are non-conference games that will help shape the national landscape.
Here are the most interesting games on the ACC schedule for 2015.
1. Florida State at Clemson (Nov. 7)
It doesn’t get much juicier than this. It’s a November matchup between two teams not only vying for ACC supremacy, but perhaps a spot in the College Football Playoff as well. The Tigers know they let one slip away in Tallahassee last year and will be ready for the Florida State invasion.
2. Ohio State at Virginia Tech (Sept. 7)
The No. 1 team in the country may have fond memories of its run to the national championship in January. But the Buckeyes also remember the bitter pill they swallowed last September when the Hokies dealt them their only loss.
3. Notre Dame at Clemson (Oct. 3)
Notre Dame and Clemson have not played since 1979 and the Irish have gone to Death Valley just once, in their national championship season of ‘77. The storied programs have split the two previous encounters with the road team winning both times.
4. Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech (Nov. 12)
While the Coastal looks wide open going into the fall, the Thursday night game between the Hokies and the Yellow Jackets has the potential to be the division game of the year. Both teams have 12 days to get ready for each other.
5. Louisville vs. Auburn (Sept. 5 at Georgia Dome in Atlanta)
Many experts have the Tigers as the favorites to win the SEC. Louisville has a number of new faces in its lineup and the Cardinals will find out right away how those players fit. This will be a fascinating duel between two great offensive coaches, Louisville’s Bobby Petrino and Auburn’s Gus Malzahn.
6. Clemson at Louisville (Sept. 17)
Wake Forest and Syracuse open ACC play on Sept. 12. With apologies to the Demon Deacons and the Orange, this Thursday night game at Papa John’s Stadium is the first game of import on the conference docket. It is also Clemson’s first real measuring stick game.
7. Florida State at Florida (Nov. 28)
There is the distinct possibility that this game means very little from a national perspective. But this is always the game in the Sunshine State. A victory would be a huge boost for new head coach Jim McElwain’s Gators, who have lost four of the last five meetings with the Seminoles.
8. Georgia Tech at Notre Dame (Sept. 19)
The Yellow Jackets should go into South Bend unbeaten and if the Irish hold up their end of the bargain by winning their first two games, this will be a biggie. Notre Dame has struggled with the Navy option and Georgia Tech presents that scheme with a different level of athlete.
9. Georgia Tech at Clemson (Oct. 10)
The Jackets got handed a bad scheduling draw this year. Not only is it their year to play Notre Dame, they also get Clemson and Florida State from the Atlantic. Clemson plays Tech the week after Notre Dame comes calling.
10. Nebraska at Miami (Sept. 19)
After expected wins against Bethune-Cookman and Florida Atlantic, Miami will host the Cornhuskers. This game will begin a difficult string of games that could determine the future of Hurricanes coach Al Golden.
11. Miami at Florida State (Oct. 10)
Three weeks after meeting up with Nebraska, the Canes head north to play their in-state rival. Miami hasn’t beaten the Noles since 2009 but they gave the defending ACC champs a tussle last year at Sun Life Stadium.
12. Georgia at Georgia Tech (Nov. 28)
The Dogs never like losing to the Jackets. They will have last year’s meltdown in mind as they head to Atlanta on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
13. NC State at Florida State (Nov. 14)
The Wolfpack faithful are sick and tired of hearing about how Clemson and Florida State will battle for the Atlantic and how Louisville could be a team to watch. Though the Wolfpack have been blown out in their last two trips to Doak Campbell, NC State won at FSU in 2009 and does not fear the Seminoles.
14. North Carolina vs. South Carolina (Sept. 3 in Charlotte, N.C.)
This is the kickoff to the FBS season. Both the Tar Heels and the Gamecocks expect to have high-powered offenses while questions abound for both defenses. This one should be a high-scoring affair.
15. Boston College vs. Notre Dame (Nov. 21 at Fenway Park in Boston)
This selection is not really about the game itself; it’s about the location. This will be the first football game at Fenway since Dec. 1, 1968. On that day, the Patriots defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in their last home game on Jersey Street in Boston.
Best of the Rest:
Virginia Tech at Miami (Oct. 17)
Virginia at UCLA (Sept. 5)
Clemson at South Carolina (Nov. 28)
North Carolina at Pittsburgh (Oct. 29)
North Carolina at NC State (Nov. 28)
Georgia Tech at Duke (Sept. 26)
LSU at Syracuse (Sept. 26)
Duke at North Carolina (Nov. 7)
Notre Dame at Pittsburgh (Nov. 7)
NC State at Virginia Tech (Oct. 9)
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.