Who would have thought that North Carolina State hosting Florida State would have been the most important game in the ACC in 2012?
That thrilling, nail-biting, fourth-down-converting loss to the Wolfpack in a crazed Carter-Finley Stadium hurt the Seminoles in the national championship picture. It was the biggest, most impactful game of the entire ’12 campaign for any team in the ACC.
With both Clemson and Florida State eyeing a spot in the final BCS National Championship Game and a completely wide open Coastal Division race on the other side of the league, fans should have plenty to watch this fall along the Atlantic seaboard. No, this league isn’t as powerful as the SEC or as successful as the Pac-12 or as lucrative as the Big Ten, but it is closing the gap quickly.
And with two new teams added to the mix in 2013, every weekend is sure to entertain. Here are the top 25 must-see games of the year in the ACC:
Florida State at Clemson: This game could easily decide not only the ACC Atlantic Division but also the ACC title and possibly even a spot in the final BCS title game. The home team has won this game six years in a row.
Georgia at Clemson: One of the most anticipated moments in Death Valley history happens right out of the gate. An old-school rivalry will be renewed when two top 10 teams battle in Week 1.
Miami at Florida State: Finally, one of the nation's best rivalries will carry heavy ACC title implications. Florida State has won three straight in relatively easy fashion and six out of the last eight overall.
Clemson at South Carolina: Yet another chance for the ACC to prove itself against the mighty SEC. However, this one could have BCS title implications for both teams. Clemson needs to stop the bleeding after losing four straight to Carolina in ugly fashion.
Florida State at Florida: The Noles and Gators played a hard-fought, grown-man's game a year ago in which the Gators put their foot on the throat of their ACC rival. This game could feature two top-10-15 teams.
Florida at Miami: After six straight wins for The U, Florida crushed the Canes in 2006 — the last time these two met. Florida's corners going up against Stephen Morris is one of the more intriguing games within the games in any ACC game. A win could begin to change national perception.
Virginia Tech at Miami: Tech has to travel south to play Miami two years in a row after a 30-12 defeat last year. However, the Hokies had won five out of six against the Hurricanes prior to that. This could provide a career-defining moment for Logan Thomas.
Miami at North Carolina (Thurs.): Interestingly, no team has ever NOT won at least two in a row in this 16-game series. That means North Carolina should win again following the 18-14 road win in South Florida a year ago.
Georgia at Georgia Tech: The third of three national perception games with the nation's best conference. The Dawgs, however, have won four straight 11 of the last 12 in one of the best named rivalries in the nation: "Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate."
Florida State at Pitt (Mon.): There is plenty to watch in this Labor Day showdown. The ACC gets a national showcase for the debut of Jameis Winston at quarterback for Florida State and for the Paul Chryst-led Panthers in their first ACC game in history.
Georgia Tech at Miami: The Hurricanes' young, talented but questionable defense will be challenged by Paul Johnson's triple option. However, Miami can keep up, having won four straight by scoring an average of 33.5 points per game.
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech (Thurs.): This game has decided the Coastal Division crown in all but one season of ACC play — last year. It has gone the way of the Hokies seven of nine total ACC games.
Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (Atlanta): Logan Thomas has a chance to send a shot heard 'round the college football world. He has the talent but does the rest of his team stand a chance against the two-time defending champs?
North Carolina at Georgia Tech: Georgia Tech has dominated the series since 1998, winning 13 of the last 15 meetings (2004, '08). Last year's contest was an offensive explosion featuring 118 combined points in a Tech 68-50 road win.
North Carolina at Virginia Tech: North Carolina has won just twice since these two became ACC foes and the 2009 win had to be vacated by the Tar Heels. This was an exciting 48-34 home win in Chapel Hill last fall for UNC.
North Carolina at South Carolina (Thurs.): The SEC has won four of the last five in this SEC-ACC rival battle. However, three of the last four have been within one touchdown.
Georgia Tech at Clemson (Thur.): Tech has the enviable task of visiting Death Valley twice in a row after a 47-31 loss last year. Clemson last lost at home to the Jackets in 2008.
Clemson at Maryland: If you are looking for a time for Clemson to, well, Clemson itself this year, then keep an eye on its matchup against the Terps. The Tigers will host Florida State the week before and will have to find a way to avoid an upset on the road against a hard-nosed team.
Clemson at NC State (Thurs.): Certainly, the Pack proved it could pull an upset at home last year and Clemson is always primed for one. However, an extra week of preparation following a home game with South Carolina State should mean a focused Tigers squad.
North Carolina at NC State: One of the better rivalries in the ACC has seen plenty of coaching turnover of late.
Notre Dame at Pitt: The Panthers played the Irish tougher than any one not named Alabama a year ago. A road rematch should be fun for both. And any time Notre Dame comes to town it is news.
NC State at Florida State: A handful of four-down, fourth-quarter conversions gave NC State one of the biggest upset of the 2012 season. And the 'Noles will be looking to exact some revenge.
Georgia Tech at BYU: The Cougars are a solid team once again and playing in Provo is underratedly difficult. Tech will be seeking revenge after a 47-17 embarrassment in Atlanta last year at the hands of BYU.
Virginia Tech at Virginia: The Commonwealth Cup is always a heated game in one of the league's top rivalries. The game meant a lot in 2011 and Mike London needs this to be the case once again this fall.
Maryland at NC State: There isn't a whole lot of sex appeal in this one but there could be plenty on the line on the final weekend. Bowl pecking order, postseason berths or maybe even a divisional race.
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