While there are plenty of heated rivalries within the ACC, the league also has a unique situation where some of its most intense matchups are actually with out-of-conference foes. We take a look at the best of both, with an emphasis on the games that will impact the conference and national title race the most. No, that last part was not a joke.
Included below is our list of the top 10 games of 2012. Disagree? Please air your complaints in the comments.
1. Florida State at Virginia Tech, November 8: In a matchup of two of the country’s best defenses, we could end up with an early look at the ACC Championship Game. This time around, it’ll be a battle of who can get to 20 points first.
2. Clemson at Florida State, September 22: FSU looks for some payback after last year’s close loss to the Tigers. The winner of this contest would effectively have the inside track to winning the Atlantic division.
3. Virginia Tech at Clemson, October 20: The Hokies haven’t easily forgotten either of last year’s embarrassing losses against Clemson, so they’ve got plenty to play for here. The Tigers, on the other hand, could either be playing to seal their place in the league title game or trying to avoid their second ACC loss. Something’s got to give.
4. NC State at Clemson, November 17: Another payback game, Clemson surely remembers how badly they were manhandled in Raleigh last November. It’s a long shot, but this late game could also decide who plays for the ACC title, too.
5. Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech, September 3: Last year’s Thursday night game was a thrilling affair for three quarters. This year, the Yellow Jackets are looking to catch VPI napping early, as several teams have also done in the past. The Coastal division goes through whoever comes out of this game victorious.
6. South Carolina at Clemson, November 24: The Battle of the Palmetto State could mean a lot more than normal here in 2012. With both teams ranked among the top 15 in most polls, there’s no telling how high they’ll be by year’s end. Though it’s not as if these squads needed additional motivation against each other…
7. Florida at Florida State, November 24: Many pundits believe the Seminoles could be undefeated going into this game. So what better present would the Gators love to hand their rivals than a season-crushing first loss? As always, got to love this intense grudge match.
8. Clemson vs. Auburn, September 1: Clemson gets a chance to win one for the ACC over its slightly-more-southern brethren in the SEC in just the first week of the season. Should they lose, it won’t be a great sign for the league’s prospect this year.
9. Georgia Tech at Georgia, November 24: Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate promises to be another interesting contest this year. Both teams come in with high expectations, and Tech, in particular, has a lot to overcome as they try and escape the shadow of UGa’s recent dominance in this series.
10. Virginia Tech at North Carolina, October 6: Sanctions or not, UNC will be an exciting group this year. Despite their ineligibility for the postseason, the Heels know how the divisional standings will read if they pull off a win in this game.