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Top 10 Non-Conference Games in the ACC

By Dave Holcomb
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The ACC non-conference slate usually presents some of the best rivalry games and match ups around college football, and the 2020 season won’t be any different.

The ACC non-conference slate usually presents some of the best rivalry games and matchups around college football, and the 2020 season won’t be any different. The non-conference ACC schedule will have a little bit of everything this fall, including traditional rivalries, intriguing Power 5 matchups and revenge games

Of course, most of these games are happening around the same time -- either in early September or on the final weekend of the season after Thanksgiving. That means get the DVR ready because all of these matchups are must-see games.

Here are the Top 10 non-conference games involving ACC teams in 2020:

10 - Boston College at Kansas, Sept. 19

The Jayhawks and Eagles met for the first time last season, and college football fans aren’t going to forget it, as Kansas surprisingly thrashed Boston College in Chestnut Hill, 48-24. Boston College will be seeking revenge for that embarrassment early this coming season under new head coach Jeff Hafley.

9 - South Carolina at Clemson, Nov. 28

This rivalry matchup could easily be higher because of the amount of hatred in the series. However, Clemson has dominated in recent years, so while it still belongs on this list, it’s not at the very top.

The Tigers will be aiming to tie a program record for consecutive victories over the Gamecocks with seven this fall. The last time Clemson did that against South Carolina was from 1934-40.

8 - Notre Dame at Pitt, Oct. 17

Notre Dame has broken tradition many college football fans even in the ACC love by halting its series against Michigan and Michigan State, but at least the Fighting Irish will play the Panthers again this fall. It should be one of the top non-conference games between midwest programs this season.

Pitt nearly upset Notre Dame two years ago, but the Irish held on to win, 19-14. Notre Dame has won the last two matchups in the series and are 48-21-1 all time against Pitt.

7 - Florida at Florida State, Nov. 28

Similar to Clemson-South Carolina, this rivalry would be higher if one of the teams returned to prominence -- Florida State. The Gators have dominated the last two years, defeating the Seminoles by a combined score of 81-31.

Willie Taggart went 0-4 against Miami and Florida in his two years as Seminoles head coach. Even if Mike Norvell doesn’t bring Florida State immediately back to national prominence, picking up a win against one of the other top programs in the state would do a lot for him to score some points with the fanbase.

6 - Virginia vs. Georgia, Sept. 7

The average college football fan would probably rather watch Florida State-Florida or Clemson-South Carolina, but Virginia-Georgia definitely has some intrigue and is a great game to have on Monday to cap off Labor Day weekend and Week 1.

Both teams were division winners in 2019 but were blown out in their respective conference championship games. Georgia is much closer to the College Football Playoffs than Virginia, but each program has questions to answer on offense, especially at quarterback. This matchup will give fans their first glimpse at each team’s new starters.

5 - Miami at Michigan State, Sept. 26

Since going 10-3 in 2017, both of these programs have reverted back to winning just six or seven contests the last two seasons, and each team faces a pivotal 2020 season.

While Manny Diaz and Mark Dantonio would much rather beat their conference rivals and/or earn a trip to the conference championship game, this early-season matchup gives each beleaguered coach a chance to earn some good will in his fanbase.

Just the fact these two prominent programs will be facing each other for the first time since 1989 makes it a must-see game too.

4 - Florida State at Boise State, Sept. 19

Just like Boston College in Lawrence, Florida State will be searching for redemption in Boise after the Broncos came into Tallahassee and defeated the Seminoles last year. That loss set the tone for Florida State in 2019 and helped eventually lead to Taggart’s firing.

Even though it’s out of conference and not against a Power 5 team, Norvell winning against Boise State would be a nice early victory for his tenure.

3 - Penn State at Virginia Tech, Sept. 12

It hasn’t always been great for Virginia Tech under Justin Fuente, but the program finished last season 6-3, so many believe Fuente has the Hokies back on the winning track.

At Penn State, James Franklin seems close to breaking through, but he just hasn’t been able to top Ohio State since 2016. That’s the biggest roadblock to get the program back to the Big Ten Championship and into the College Football Playoffs for the first time.

A division championship is possible for both of these teams in 2020, and with that in mind, this matchup is not only important for both schools but each conference.

2 -  North Carolina vs. Auburn, Sept. 12

The last time these two programs met, it came in Atlanta at the 2001 Peach Bowl. The old Georgia Dome is gone, and this time around, it won’t be the Peach Bowl, but once again, the Tar Heels and Tigers will meet in Atlanta at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

In 2019, Auburn scored a huge non-conference win for itself and the SEC with a victory against Oregon to open the season. A victory over North Carolina would have a similar impact for Auburn early in 2020, especially if the Tar Heels win the Coastal division.

Of course, North Carolina winning would go a long way to bringing back some national respect to the ACC.

1 - Clemson at Notre Dame, Nov. 7

The Tigers and Irish went 34 years without playing from 1980-2014, but this year, they will face each other for the third time over the last six seasons. Clemson won the two previous matchups since 2015 and blew out Notre Dame in the 2018 national semifinals, 30-3, en route to its perfect 15-0 season.

In 2018, the Tigers won a nail-biter, 24-22, which was a key win for Dabo Swinney to launch the program to new heights beginning the following year.

This will only be Clemson’s second trip to Notre Dame Stadium. It should be a terrific matchup with extra intrigue due to the recent matchups and heightened importance as well because of what it could mean in the playoff picture.