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Give me a Boost: The ACC’s Most Important Non-conference Games

By Matt Osborne
SouthernPigskin.com
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During the regular season in 2012, ACC teams played 10 non-conference games against opponents ranked in the top 25 at the time of the contest. In those games, the ACC combined to go 0-10.

The main talking points at the annual ACC Football Kickoff in Greensboro have remained pretty consistent over the past few years.

From the talk of Florida State and Clemson battling it out in the Atlantic Division, to the storylines involving Miami off of the gridiron, media members have basically known what to expect when arriving at the Grandover Resort in mid-July.

Perhaps the main storyline for the conference over the better part of the last decade, though, has been the inability of the ACC to boost its reputation nationally.

The solution to fixing that problem is easy to define, yet has been immeasurably difficult for the conference to implement: fare better in marquee non-conference games.

During the regular season in 2012, ACC teams played 10 non-conference games against opponents ranked in the top 25 at the time of the contest. In those games, the ACC combined to go 0-10.

That’s right; the conference failed to win a single non-conference game against a ranked opponent last fall.

But the league’s non-conference problems don’t stop there. The ACC also lost non-conference games to Tennessee (NC State), Pittsburgh (No. 13 Virginia Tech), Connecticut (Maryland), Middle Tennessee State (Georgia Tech) and Army (Boston College).

Although every non-conference game is important for the reputation of a league, the true key to boosting the perception of your conference nationally is to win the high-profile matchups, while avoiding too many slip-ups against lesser competition.

The ACC obviously failed on both fronts in 2012, but there will be plenty of opportunities for the conference to earn some eye-catching wins over the next few months.

Here is a look at some of the games on the ACC non-conference docket which could go a long way in changing the perception of the league for the better.

North Carolina @ South Carolina – Thursday, August 29

North Carolina will likely be a two-touchdown underdog heading into Columbia to open the season, but a victory over Jadeveon Clowney and the SEC East-contending Gamecocks would certainly grab some national headlines.

Alabama vs. Virginia Tech (Georgia Dome) – August 31

If you don’t know how this would help the ACC, you know nothing about college football. A Hokie win in this game would undoubtedly be the biggest storyline of week one.

Georgia @ Clemson – August 31

The Tigers were able to defeat SEC power LSU in the Chick-fil-A Bowl to end the season, but the country will want to see if Clemson has what it takes to do it again. One of the big complaints about the ACC is that it has failed to produce a national title contender in recent years. Clemson could become that team with a win over the Dawgs.

Florida @ Miami – September 7

Given the ups and downs of Florida’s 2012 season, this may not be a win that would shock many people in the college football world. It would, however, certainly be a win that would look good on the conference’s resume at the end of the year.

Oregon @ Virginia – September 7

Again, you know why this is a big game, but are the Cavaliers capable of toppling the mighty Ducks (hockey pun definitely intended)? If so, the league has earned another notch for its belt.

Notre Dame @ Pitt – November 9

An ACC team hasn’t beaten Notre Dame in the regular season in the conference’s last nine tries, dating all the way back to 2008. After the Fighting Irish’s run to the BCS Championship Game last year, a Pittsburgh victory here would bring much-needed positive press. Remember, the Panthers were a couple of missed field goals away from beating Notre Dame last fall.

Rivalry Weekend – November 30

The ACC has three big rivalries with SEC foes on the final weekend of the regular season: Florida-Florida State, Georgia-Georgia Tech and Clemson-South Carolina. The ACC fared miserably in those games last fall, as both Florida State and Clemson fell at home despite being favorites, while Georgia Tech was lambasted by 32 points in Athens. It is difficult to envision the conference winning all three of these contests, but taking two out of three would be a huge boost for its national perception.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at matt@southernpigskin.com.