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Top 10 Can’t Miss ACC Games of 2020

By Dave Holcomb
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Dave Holcomb ranks the ten must-see ACC matchups of next season.

The ACC released its football schedule last week. While the season doesn’t officially kick off for another seven months, it’s never too early to take a look at the must-watch games in the conference.

As has become the norm in the ACC, the Coastal division offers the most intrigue. That’s in large part because Clemson enters 2020 as the heavy favorite to once again win the Atlantic. For that reason, nine of the 10 games on our list include at least one Coastal team.

Without further ado, here are the Top 10 “can’t miss” games of the 2020 ACC season:

10 - Miami at Wake Forest, Oct. 9

Maybe they aren’t true division contenders, but taking that next step is what both these programs are hoping for this season. Miami has been sitting in mediocrity, going 13-16 since starting 10-0 in 2017. The Hurricanes would obviously like to get back to where the program was two years ago.

Wake Forest football has never been healthier, as the program just went to its record fourth straight bowl game last year. But, the Demon Deacons haven’t won more than eight games since 2007. This early October matchup could be key for both teams building towards a better 2020.

If for nothing else, this game could be fun because it’s a rare matchup in the ACC. Miami and Wake Forest have played just once in the last 10 years -- the Hurricanes winning, 24-21, in 2013.

9 - Syracuse at Pitt, Nov. 28

As two of the three newest members of the ACC, the Syracuse-Pitt rivalry probably doesn’t draw as many fans from North Carolina as other conference rivalries do, but in the ACC northeast, it doesn’t get better than these two former Big East foes squaring off.

This rivalry coming on the last weekend of November this year means bowl implications or even a division title for Pitt could be on the line in this season’s game.

8 - Florida State at Miami, Nov. 7

While both programs aren’t what they used to be, the Florida State-Miami matchup still has to make this list. Last year, Miami beating Florida State led to Willie Taggart’s immediate firing, which should only add fuel to the fire for this season’s meeting.

The Seminoles dominated this rivalry, winning seven straight from 2010-16, but the Hurricanes have won the last three matchups. Miami owns a 34-30 all-time edge in the series.

7 -  N.C. State at North Carolina, Nov. 27

It’s not as well known nationally as the Florida State-Miami rivalry, but there’s plenty of hatred in the N.C. State-North Carolina feud. In Mack Brown’s second year, the Tar Heels may be contending for the Coastal division title on the final weekend of the season, so this could be a very pivotal game.

The Wolfpack would love nothing else but to spoil their rival’s chances of going to Charlotte the first weekend of December.

This game will take place on Black Friday, which adds extra intrigue to the matchup. It should be one of the top games of the day around college football regardless of the ACC standings.

6 - Virginia Tech at Louisville, Oct. 31

This will be Louisville’s seventh season in the ACC and yet this will be the first time these two schools face each other as ACC foes. If that doesn’t convince fans that the ACC needs to add a ninth conference game, then nothing will.

Just from that perspective, this will be an historic Halloween matchup. Both teams also come into 2020 with rather high expectations after strong finishes to the 2019 season.

These two programs, though, did meet six times in the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s and as Big East opponents in 2006. Virginia Tech owns a 5-2 edge in their seven confrontations.

5 - Louisville at Clemson, Sept. 12

The Atlantic division is once again Clemson’s to lose, but there’s usually one team pinned as the biggest threat to the Tigers throne. Last year, it was Syracuse, and that didn’t work out for the Orange at all.

This year, that team appears to be the Cardinals. They won eight games under Scott Satterfield after going 2-10 in Bobby Petrino’s final season during 2018. Louisville started 2-2 and then finished the season 6-3, including 5-2 in the ACC, and defeated Mississippi State in the Music City Bowl.

This game will be a big early measuring stick for how much progress Louisville has made early in the Satterfield tenure.

4 - North Carolina at Miami, Oct. 24

Honestly, just about every North Carolina and Miami matchup in the Coastal division could be on this list. With the amount of chaos in the division over recent years, it’s difficult to project who will be vying for the title and thus it’s hard to pick the must-watch games in the division.

But if this year’s North Carolina-Miami matchup is anything like last year’s, fans will be in for a real treat. The Hurricanes trailed in Chapel Hill until the 4:38 mark of the fourth quarter when they took a five-point lead. But the Tar Heels responded with a 75-yard touchdown drive, completed with 1:01 left in regulation, to win. Miami attempted a game-tying field goal with seconds remaining but missed.

Counting vacated games, thanks to last year’s win, North Carolina owns a 12-11 edge in the all-time series against Miami.

3 - Virginia at Clemson, Sept. 26

Similar to a few of the cross-divisional matchups on this list, Virginia and Clemson don’t play each other very often. They’ve squared off during the regular season just once in the last decade.

But they did play in the ACC Championship Game last year, with the Tigers winning 62-17. With the Cavaliers needing to replace Bryce Perkins, the rematch might not be competitive either, but the rarity of the matchup in the regular season and the championship rematch element makes this a must-tune in ACC game.

2 - Virginia at Virginia Tech, Nov. 28

The Cavaliers finally did it. They ended the 15-year losing streak against the Hokies, which was the longest such streak in this rivalry’s history. It was a great contest too with Virginia pulling out a 39-30 win.

This year, Virginia Tech enters as the favorite to recapture the Coastal throne. It’s tough to tell what Virginia will be with so many new pieces, especially a new starting quarterback, but at the very least, the Cavaliers would love to spoil their rival’s chances at a division crown and beat Virginia Tech in consecutive games for the first time since 1997-98.

1 - Virginia Tech at North Carolina, Oct. 10

From a national perspective, there may be bigger games in the ACC this season or larger draws for rivalry matchups, but this figures to be the biggest game of the year. The Hokies and Tar Heels enter the spring as the two top tier teams in the Coastal and with the greatest chance of meeting Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.

Their matchup in early October should go a long way in shaping the Coastal division race all season long.