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Top Ten 2019 “Can’t Miss” ACC Games

By Dave Holcomb
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With a changing of the guard -- at least in some respects -- in the ACC, the “can’t miss games” are changing too.

Clemson versus Florida State. Florida State against Miami. Miami versus Virginia Tech. Clemson against Louisville. These are just some of the games that have been must-watch events in the ACC over the last few seasons.

But with a changing of the guard -- at least in some respects -- in the ACC, the “can’t miss games” are changing too. Clemson is still the premiere team of the conference, but other programs such as N.C. State, Syracuse, Pitt and Virginia are vying for the No. 2 spot on the ACC power rankings.

So without further ado, here are the Top 10 “Can’t Miss” games of the 2019 ACC season:

10 - Florida State at Virginia, Sept. 14

The Seminoles and Cavaliers meet just once every six years, and this time, they will renew their series at a very interesting crossroads for both programs.

Florida State will be seeking to start a new bowl streak under second-year head coach Willie Taggart, but the expectation is the Seminoles will be competing with Clemson again soon. If that’s going to happen in 2019, they need to get off to a good start beating Virginia in their first conference game.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers are hoping to surprise some people this fall. They have the potential to win a wide-open Coastal Division crown. By Week 3, Virginia will have played Pitt and Florida State, so it’s very likely we’ll know if the Cavaliers are for real by the end of September.

9 - N.C. State at Boston College, Oct. 19

The Eagles fell just short in their comeback attempt against N.C. State last October. The Wolfpack have won the last two in this series, but Boston College owns a 9-7 series lead since the two programs began meeting every year in 2005.

N.C. State is facing a massive rebuild on offense while Boston College is returning quarterback Anthony Brown and running back A.J. Dillon. Both are expected to make bowl games, but the winner of this contest has a much better chance of competing for a Top 2 spot in the Atlantic Division.

8 - Miami at Pitt, Oct. 26

Miami has beaten Pitt in three of the last four seasons, including a 24-3 rout at the Miami Gardens last season, but the Panthers still went on to capture their first Coastal Division crown. Furthermore, the last time these two teams met in Pittsburgh, the Panthers knocked off the then No. 2 and undefeated Hurricanes.

In 2019, this game should have major implications on who will win the Coastal Division in 2019.

7 - Syracuse at Florida State, Oct. 26

In its first three ACC games, Syracuse faces Clemson, N.C. State on the road at Pitt. Those aren’t cupcake matchups, and then the Orange will travel down to Tallahassee to face the Seminoles in Week 9.

Looking at Florida State’s schedule, there’s an interesting quirk that has the Seminoles facing all eight of their conference opponents in the span of nine weeks. Florida State faces Syracuse the week prior to hosting Miami. The Orange won’t sneak up on teams as they may have last season, but this is still possibly a trap game for the Seminoles.

6 - Virginia at Pitt, Aug. 31

There aren’t a whole lot of ACC games on opening week, and it won’t have a whole lot of national intrigue, but this one could have big ramifications for the Coastal Division all season.

Pitt only threw for 61 yards but beat Virginia behind 254 rushing yards in last season’s matchup. The result sent Pitt on a path towards the ACC Championship Game while Virginia began a three-game conference losing streak.

5 - Clemson at N.C. State, Nov. 9

It’s hard to predict what to expect from the Wolfpack when their entire offense is new. But this has been an intriguing matchup the last few years.

While Clemson won in a rout last season, three of the Tigers’ last four trips into Raleigh have been games decided by one possession. Furthermore, N.C. State attempted a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation in the 2016 matchup. However, N.C. State missed the short kick, and the Tigers won in overtime.

This year’s matchup could present the same intrigue.

4 - Miami at Florida State, Nov. 2

The week after traveling to Pittsburgh, Miami will meet their in-state rival in what is always the best intra-division ACC matchup of the year.

At the beginning of the decade, Florida State held a seven-game winning streak against Miami, but the Hurricanes have won the last two meetings in dramatic fashion. In 2017, Miami scored the game-winning touchdown to win in Tallahassee with six seconds remaining. Then last year, the Hurricanes erased a 20-point third-quarter deficit to win 28-27.

Neither of these teams ended the 2018 season the way they wanted. Winning this game at the beginning of November will be key for both programs finishing up the decade in a positive way.

3 - Virginia Tech at Virginia, Nov. 29

The Hokies have won 19 of the last 20 meetings with the Cavaliers, including the last 15 contests. Last season, Virginia Tech barely escaped with a win, 34-31.

This rivalry is enough to make it a must-watch game, but it could also have major ACC implications on the final weekend. If Virginia expects to win the ACC Coastal Division, the Cavaliers must beat Virginia Tech the day after Thanksgiving.

2 - Virginia Tech at Miami, Oct. 5

Two years ago, this game essentially decided who was going to win the ACC Coastal Division. Both programs experienced down years in 2018, but this contest was still a must-watch matchup at the end of November, as it possessed huge bowl ramifications (the loser was in danger of finishing below .500).

This season’s meeting will be in Week 6, but it could still determine who will represent the Coastal Division in the ACC title game.

1 - Clemson at Syracuse, Sept. 14

Last season, these were the only two programs with 10 wins in the ACC. Clemson must overcome the loss of its dominant defensive line while Syracuse will need to replace long-time starting quarterback Eric Dungey, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if both of these programs are the best two in the ACC again this fall.

Regardless, Dino Babers and the Orange have played Clemson extremely tough each of the last two years. The Tigers just barely beat the Orange at home last October, and two years ago, Syracuse edged Clemson in its last trip to the Carrier Dome, 27-24.

This matchup will again be in Central New York during primetime of Week 3.