In a season full of parity, it’s understandable that the ACC had so many memorable contests to choose from when compiling this list. So many last-second scores, one-possession ball games and overtime battles, it was truly difficult to decipher which really were the “best” the league had to offer. Nonetheless, we make an attempt below, nodding to the 10 contests that — more than any others the ACC gave us this season — really gave us a reason to remember them. Agree or disagree with our picks? Share away in the comments.
Top 10 Games of 2012
10. Syracuse 37, USF 36: Down 20 points at the half, this was supposed to be the tombstone in another disappointing Syracuse season. And yet, as they did all year, this Orange squad refused to quit, and battled all the way back in the second half. Down five with just seconds on the clock, Ryan Nassib delivered a gutsy touchdown pass to Alec Lemon on fourth-and-goal, sealing the win and adding to his reputation as a master of the comeback.
9. Syracuse 31, Missouri 27: We promise this is the last you hear about Syracuse on this list. Once again facing a late deficit — this time 27-24 — Nassib and Lemon would complete their furious comeback with a wide-open 17-yard touchdown pass. The strike, with just 20 seconds remaining, would end up being the game-winner, sending ‘Cuse bowling for the second time in three seasons.
8. Florida State 28, Virginia Tech 22: From sloppy, to boring, to inexplicable and then miraculous, this game truly ran the gambit of emotions for players and fans. What should have been a quick win over a lackluster Hokies squad would turn into a struggle for FSU; one they were certainly lucky to come away with. Even now, the final few minutes rush by like a blur: Devonta Freeman‘s idiotic safety, EJ Manuel‘s easy 39-yard TD pass, and then Logan Thomas‘s ultimate hero-turned-goat act. Just another Thursday night ACC showdown.
7. Miami 42, Georgia Tech 36: The ‘Canes scored the first 19 points, then the Yellow Jackets put up 36 of their own, followed by Miami’s 23 straight to close out the game in overtime. It was a bizarre day that saw a strange safety called on Tech’s Orwin Smith, a monster performance from Miami’s Stephen Morris (436 passing yards) and a surprisingly big effort from the U’s Mike James as well, notching three TDs, including the game-winner.
6. Florida State 49, Clemson 37: On display for the whole country after ESPN decided to host College Gameday from Tallahassee, this contest would not disappoint for most of the first three quarters. After shutting their first three opponents, the ‘Noles were in for a rude awakening against the high-powered Clemson attack. And yet, they brought some firepower of their own too, opening up the playbook against the overmatched Clemson secondary. Don’t let the final score fool you, however. This was one tight contest, and a big moment for the conference in primetime.
5. Miami 44, NC State 37: Miami’s Stephen Morris would end up throwing for 566 yards and five touchdowns in this one — including the game-clinching 62-yarder with just 19 seconds left on the clock to give him the ACC record. If there was any shot people still saw the State secondary as a formidable group, they sure rethought themselves after this ghastly outing.
4. Notre Dame 29, Pittsburgh 26: It was miraculous Pitt had managed to even hang around in this game against the eventual no. 1-team in the nation, never mind have a shot to pull of the win. And yet, the Panthers could have managed one of the season’s biggest upsets on multiple occasions if not for an inability to just kick the ball through the uprights. It was a tight battle, the likes of which were won in the trenches by the Fighting Irish as the game wore on. But until that final whistle blew, this was one hell of a game, regardless of your allegiances.
3. North Carolina 43, NC State 35: Giovani Bernard stole this show while racking up over 300 total yards and three scores — most importantly his game-winning punt return for a touchdown. The speed at which it happened and the shock of the whole result is really what gets you here, though, especially with the two teams’ dueling whirlwind comeback efforts.
2. NC State 17, Florida State 16: And to think, the ‘Noles once had national title hopes. This was the game that reinforced what would be a disappointing year for both FSU and the ACC. Ill-equipped to beat a top-10 team on paper, State used its home field advantage to drive it to a very unlikely win over what was then the no. 3-ranked team in the sport. In a year where it seemed like both the Wolfpack and QB Mike Glennon fell short of expectations, this win still almost functions as redemption.
1. Duke 33, North Carolina 30: Yes, Duke ends up on the top of this list, despite failing to win a game since this contest back in mid-October. Faced with a daunting end-of-year slate, and needing just one more win to become bowl eligible for the first time since 1994, the Blue Devils put on an impressive show against their archrivals. While at many times it appeared the dream was about to die, be it from ineffectiveness or simply bad luck on their part, they would not be deterred. The result? A thrilling 33-30 win, which culminated in touchdown pass from Sean Renfree to Jamison Crowder. Blue Devils fan or not (and your author certainly isn’t one), it was hard not to cheer for your underdog that night, and revel in the win along with the Duke faithful.