SaturdayBlitz.com’s Luke Brietzke and Paul Williams collaborated in ranking the top ACC games of 2013.
1. Florida State at Clemson – Oct. 19
Officially, the ACC Championship Game will be played Dec. 7 in Charlotte. The winner of this game will likely be a prohibitive favorite, though. Last year, Clemson and Florida State combined to go 14-1 against everyone else in the conference. The Seminoles won the head-to-head battle, though, giving them the tie-breaker and the spot in the conference championship game. This game will feature plenty of star power and intrigue at the quarterback position with Clemson’s Tajh Boyd trying to cement his legacy and Florida State’s Jameis Winston starting to ink his.
2. Miami at North Carolina – Oct. 17
Much of the ACC Coastal division will unfold on ESPN’s Thursday Night Football, including this tilt. Picking one of the round-robin games including Miami, North Carolina, Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech was difficult, but this particular game has the exciting storylines of Miami’s renaissance behind coach Al Golden and North Carolina’s ascent under coach Larry Fedora. The Hurricanes have high hopes this season and host both Techs, meaning this divisional battle could carry a lot of weight in potential tie-breakers.
3. Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech – Sept. 26
One of these teams has appeared in the ACC Championship Game every year since its inception. Before last season, the winner of this game advanced to the title game for seven consecutive years. The Yellow Jackets broke that string in 2012, overcoming a season-opening 20-17 loss to Virginia Tech to represent the division. Of course, Georgia Tech benefitted from both North Carolina and Miami being ineligible for postseason play.
4. Virginia Tech at Miami – Nov. 9
The Hurricanes have never appeared in the ACC Championship Game. In order to do so in 2013, defending their home turf will go a long way. Miami gets both Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech at home. Both teams feature senior quarterbacks. Miami’s run game, led by RB Duke Johnson, could be the difference unless Virginia Tech can find more of a steady presence on the ground. First-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has a track record of producing strong run games. Heck, he helped an atrocious Auburn offense churn out a 1,000-yard rusher in 2012.
5. North Carolina at Georgia Tech – Sept. 21
ACC teams combine to go over the century mark all the time at the Dean Dome, but not usual at UNC’s Kenan Stadium, or any ACC football stadium for that matter. But when Georgia Tech and North Carolina met up in Chapel Hill last November, the 68-50 Yellow Jacket win reached 118 points, setting the all-time ACC record for combined points in a single game.
While it’s is hard to believe that this year’s game in Atlanta will have the same frenetic pace, the matchup will still be one to watch.
The Jacket’s dominant grind-it-out flexbone ground game versus the Tar Heels stretching the defense out and spreading the ball around to their athletcs on the edges. Expect high scoring and high drama.
6. Miami at Florida State – Nov. 2
Two teams, one state, and 62 years of hatred.
Florida State v. Miami will be renewed Nov. 2 in Tallahassee’s Doak Campbell Stadium.
One of college football’s best rivalries has been controlled by the Seminoles of late, winning five of seven. Quarterback Jameis Winston’s remarkable progress this spring gives FSU fans hopes to extend their three game win streak. However this may be the Hurricane team might be its best in several years. 16 returning freshmen that played time last year, including the conference’s Offensive Rookie of the Year Duke Johnson, are looking to reversing the trend. This could end up being a preview of the ACC Championship game.
7. North Carolina at Virginia Tech – Oct. 5
Two senior quarterbacks, Bryn Renner and Logan Thomas, will dual in this year’s matchup between the Tar Heels and Hokies. These signal-callers had stark differences in 2012. Renner had a record-setting 2012 while Thomas struggled to lead his Hokies to much offensive success.
North Carolina’s trampled Virginia Tech’s vaunted defense in last year’s game, outrushing the Hokies 339-40, but this year’s game doesn’t have Jonathan Cooper or Giovanni Bernard. You have to bet that VT will be hungry to settle the score Oct. 5 in Blacksburg.
8. Georgia Tech at Miami – Oct. 5
Both of these teams will be in the hunt for a division title when they clash in Coral Gables. Last years’ matchup went to overtime with the Hurricanes winning the thriller 42-36. Two of the country’s top rushing attacks will be on display when Paul Johnson deploys his tricky-to-defend flexbone versus Al Golden’s sophomore sensation Duke Johnson.
Easier said than done, as this game will feature stingier defenses that last year. If healthy, both these defenses could end up ranking in the nation’s top tier. This game likely will be decided by who can win the game in the trenches and running the ball.
9. Clemson at North Carolina State – Sept. 19
Ask Florida State about going into Raleigh and winning at night – even as a big favorite. First-year coach Dave Doeren gets a crack at the Tigers in the Wolfpack’s ACC opener on a national stage. ESPN will televise this tilt, which could be Clemson’s toughest conference road test of the season. The Tigers have no excuse for this to be a trap game, but they have a history of dropping similar games.
10. (Tie) Clemson at Syracuse – Oct. 5 / Florida State at Pittsburgh – Sept. 2
ACC schedule makers didn’t do incoming members Syracuse or Pittsburgh any competitive favors with their respective league debuts. The Orange and Panthers play Clemson and Florida State, respectively – probably the best two teams in the conference. At least the games come at home for the newcomers. Pittsburgh hosts the Seminoles in the season opener for a nationally televised Labor Day game. The Orange, at least, gets its four non-conference games in before facing off with Clemson.