Yesterday the ACC released it's schedule for 2013 as they welcome two new members to the fold in Pitt and Syracuse - both formerly of the Big East. After seeing the schedule and letting it marinate in our heads for a bit one thing is clear, nearly every week has a matchup that you could consider must see - whether it's non-conference or in the ACC.
Unlike past years the 2013 season will feature at least one conference matchup every weekend of the season, which is a great idea since it'll make us actually have to pay attention to the ACC from start to finish (at least that's the idea here in February).
So, after sitting on the schedules for a night, what games are we here at Crystal Ball Run most looking forward to and why?
Here are our Top 10 ACC Games of 2013:
10. North Carolina vs. South Carolina (Sept. 2): Could the opening week of the season be the best week of the year for the ACC? It's possible and normally this would be the best matchup available, but as you'll see it may actually only be the 4th best of opening weekend. The battle of the Carolina's promises to be heated, with both schools looking to compete for their respective division and conference titles. UNC will be coming off a year that would've seen them go to the ACC championship game, but for a postseason ban & USC will be looking to figure out what to do to compete with the likes of Florida & Georgia in the SEC. This will be a great tune up for both teams and the winner could be poised to make some major noise in their conference.
9. Clemson at Syracuse (Oct. 5): Wow, thanks ACC for this welcoming party - said no Syracuse or Pitt fan ever. While the Panthers face FSU (we'll get into that matchup later) the Orange must face another team in orange as they welcome Clemson to the Carrier Dome for the first ever ACC game. Not exactly like the conference rolled out the easy welcome mat or anything, especially since Ryan Nassib (the star QB last season) is off to the NFL and all. While this game could be ugly it's still important to the history of the league.
8. NC State at Duke (Nov. 9): Duke is coming off one of it's best seasons in recent school history, earning it's first bowl bid since 1994 and all and they'll be going up against bitter neighbor and rival NC State later into the season. This game could have big time implications for both teams' chances of making a bowl game. NC State is under the new leadership of Dave Doeren and Duke will be looking to replace a lot of offensive talent. So, this could be a great late season measuring stick of two teams in opposite divisions that may need this win to step up another notch in the ACC.
7. Clemson at NC State (Nov. 16): The Wolfpack under Tom O'Brien loved playing spoiler and no other teams know that more than FSU and Clemson, their Atlantic division foes. Can State keep that up under Doeren, especially after an emotionally charged matchup the week before against Duke? Clemson won't soon forget what happened to them just two seasons ago at home either, even though they got a measure of revenge last season. If NC State wants to take that next step and be a true contender in this division a win over Clemson would be huge. Needless to say for the Tigers this one has trap game written all over it.
6. Florida State at Florida (Nov. 30): This game could be way too low on our list, however it's the regular season finale for both teams and we just don't know where these teams will be come Nov. 30th. Could this game have national championship implications or could it be just another bitter in-state rivalry game with very little meaning to it other than pride? Only time will tell, but sitting here in February this matchup could potentially knock one of these two out of the picture for a Top 10 or even Top 5 spot. No matter what it's always a must see football game for those of us that love the drama of college football.
5. Florida State at Pitt (Sept. 2): Welcome to the ACC Paul Chryst and Pitt, your mission should you chose to accept it - beat defending champion and likely preseason Top 10 team Florida State in your first ever conference game. Oh, and it just so happens to be the first game of the season period. To say this will set the bar high for the Panthers is an understatement. However, Chryst has an interesting mix of returning talent and his first ever complete recruiting class of his own to add to the mix. This will be a fun test in week one of the season and a chance for the ACC to have the spotlight directly on them. If FSU stumbles in week one it could spell some major trouble for them in conference play.
4. North Carolina at Miami (Nov. 2): These are two of the three teams that tied for the ACC Coastal division title last season, they are also two teams that were banned from the postseason and Miami likely could be banned again depending on the results of the NCAA's penalties, which most expect to come down before the season begins. Regardless these are two of the premiere programs in the coastal division and the matchup could have major implications as to who meets FSU or Clemson in Charlotte for the ACC Championship game.
3. Georgia Tech vs. Virginia Tech (Sept. 28): Pop quiz... name ever single ACC Coastal division champion since the divisions came into play in 2005. Can't do it? Well, the two teams playing in this one have been the only two teams to represent the division. So, as you can imagine the winner of the "Battle of the Tech's" has a huge advantage in possibly representing the division once again. Does it get more important than this matchup? We think not.
2. Virginia Tech vs. Alabama (Sept. 2, Atlanta): Va Tech isn't afraid to play difficult non-conference games, but this one is seriously ridiculous. Va Tech is coming off a disappointing season by their standards and 'Bama is the two time defending national champions. If you want to make a statement and you are Va Tech, this is the game, however it could also set your season on fire before it ever really began. Thankfully the Hokies will have Logan Thomas back under center as he decided to stay in school and forgo the NFL draft. His play needs to be much better, as does the running game behind him and the Tide will provide the biggest stage to showcase his talents as possible. Welcome to "Big Boy Football" as they like to say in SEC territory.
1. Florida State at Clemson (Oct. 19): Really, is there a bigger game for either school all season long? Sure they both have some intriguing non-conference matchups, but in the ACC over the past few years these are the cream of the crop teams. It helps that both are coming off big time bowl game wins, with Clemson taking down LSU and FSU winning the Sugar Bowl. However, Clemson needs this game more than FSU as this seems to be the hurdle they can't get over on their way to becoming more nationally relevant. The winner of this game is likely to be the front runner in the Atlantic division race.... Does it get any bigger? We don't think so.