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Top 10 ACC Non-Conference Games of 2019

By Dave Holcomb
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The ACC non-conference slate presents some of the best rivalry games around the country. But in 2019, there are also plenty of non-conference contests featuring ACC teams that won’t be traditional rivalry matchups.

The ACC non-conference slate presents some of the best rivalry games around the country. But in 2019, there are also plenty of non-conference contests featuring ACC teams that won’t be traditional rivalry matchups.

Of course, most of these games are happening around the same time -- either in the August and September or on the final weekend of the season after Thanksgiving.

All that means, though, is fans will have to have the DVR ready because all of these games are must-watch TV. Here are the Top 10 non-conference games involving ACC teams in 2019:

10. Old Dominion at Virginia Tech, Sept. 7

Under usual circumstances, it would be very difficult to convince the average football fan to watch an ACC opponent face a non-Power 5 team. But that’s not the case here.

In 2017, Virginia Tech routed Old Dominion, 38-0, and apparently that didn’t sit well with the Monarchs. Last season, Old Dominion upset Virginia Tech, 49-35.

The Hokies will be searching for their revenge this fall.

9. Clemson at South Carolina, Nov. 30

This is also an unusual choice for No. 9 -- not due to a surprising inclusion on the list, but because most might expect it to be higher.

The Tigers-Gamecocks rivalry, which dates back to 1896, is one of the best in the country, particularly the south. In the last 10 years, the two teams have split their matchup, 5-5.

But interestingly, South Carolina won five straight from 2009-13 while Clemson has won the last five matchups (2014-18). Most of those Clemson wins haven’t been close.

With Clemson gearing up to defend its national title, this could be another lopsided affair, leading it to be ranked a bit lower on the list.

8. Duke vs. Alabama, Aug. 31

Speaking of potential blowouts, the Blue Devils and Crimson Tide will square off in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game at Mercedes Benz Stadium. Two years ago, Alabama played in this game, the first ever held in the beautiful new stadium in Atlanta, and smashed Florida State.

In many ways, the Seminoles still haven’t recovered. During that game, quarterback Deondre Francois was lost for the season with a knee injury.

The same can be said for Louisville, who lost to Alabama, 51-14, in a season-opening matchup last year. That defeat sent the Cardinals into a tailspin right at the beginning of 2018.

Duke will be looking to avoid that type of embarrassment and beat Alabama for the first time since 1945 (they’ve only played three times since then).

7. North Carolina vs. South Carolina, Aug. 31

At the same time Duke and Alabama square off in Atlanta, the Tar Heels and Gamecocks will be battling about four hours north on I-85. For the second time in five seasons, North Carolina and South Carolina will meet in the Belk College Kickoff Game in Charlotte.

In the last meeting during 2015, the Gamecocks actually edged the Tar Heels, 17-13, but then it was North Carolina who reeled off 11 straight wins after that.

Mack Brown, who went 1-3 against South Carolina during his first stint at Chapel Hill, would love to begin his second tenure with a win.

6. Florida State at Florida, Nov. 30

A classic rivalry matchup like this could easily be higher on the list, but it sitting at No. 6 just indicates how great some of the other non-conference games in the ACC are expected to be this fall.

Florida State won seven of eight, including five in a row, against Florida under Jimbo Fisher, but in the first season of Willie Taggart and Dan Mullen, the Gators routed the Seminoles, 41-14, in 2018.

This will likely be a key game for both programs. It won’t likely impact the playoff race, but if Taggart loses to Florida again, things could be uncomfortable for him during bowl season.

5. Pitt at Penn State, Sept. 14

This matchup might not get as much publicity in the south as some of the other rivalries on this list, but Pennsylvania folks know the magnitude of this game.

Pitt shocked Penn State when the two programs renewed their rivalry in 2016, but apparently the Nittany Lions took that personally. In the last two meetings, Penn State has outscored Pitt, 84-20.

In this matchup, Pitt will be looking for its first win at State College since 1988.

4. Virginia at Notre Dame, Sept. 28

Outside of the non-conference rivalry matchups, this contest is one of the most intriguing out-of-conference games for the ACC.

Virginia does play Boston College and Florida State in the first month, but the Cavaliers’ biggest early test will come in Week 5 at South Bend. Virginia can lose this game and still compete for its first Coastal Division title, but this one will be a great measurement of how good this Virginia team can actually be.

3. N.C. State at West Virginia, Sept. 14

Hurricane Florence robbed fans of this intriguing non-conference matchup last year. The 2018 matchup deserved more hype, but even without quarterbacks Ryan Finley and Will Grier, this game is definitely one to see.

N.C. State is rebuilding its entire offense while West Virginia has many offensive holes to fill as well. Whichever offense has more early-season chemistry will have an edge in this game.

2. Miami vs. Florida, Aug. 24

This is a matchup I wish we could get every year. Since we can’t, whenever they do play, it’s a must-watch game. The last time these two teams faced each other in back-to-back seasons was 2003-04.

Miami and Florida last played in 2013, when the Hurricanes won 21-16. Miami has been victorious in five of the last six contests against its “other” in-state rival.

With this game scheduled during the infamous “Week 0,” it will have bigger implications. It’s one of just two games played on Aug. 24, and the other is in Hawaii. That means sports radio will likely take the result and completely blow it out of proportion.

God have mercy on the loser. Both teams expect to compete with some playoff contenders in their conferences. But one of these team’s playoff bubbles could be burst before the official beginning of the season.

1. Texas A&M at Clemson, Sept. 7

The Tigers and Aggies played in one of the most entertaining non-conference games a year ago. Clemson held a 28-13 lead heading into the fourth quarter, but Texas A&M battled back, and the game came down to a missed two-point conversion during the final minute. Clemson won, 28-26.

The encore could be even better, as the Aggies appear ready to take another step forward under Jimbo Fisher. Meanwhile, Clemson is expecting to return to its fifth straight College Football Playoffs, and in each of the last three seasons, the Tigers had no problem disposing an early-season SEC opponent.

Of course, a major storyline in this one will also be Fisher facing Dabo Swinney once again. The two coaches squared off in some terrific games when Fisher was at Florida State. It’s fantastic that ACC football fans have been able to watch this matchup again to end this decade.