With the release of the 2018 ACC football schedule, what are the five biggest games you’ll care about – even if you don’t care about the ACC?
Daily Five: ACC’s Most Important Games of 2018
5. Florida State at Miami, Oct. 6
Forgetting for a moment that this all-timer of an amazing rivalry is just starting to heat back up again to the level it was back when these two ruled the world, it’s going to be a watershed moment for the ACC season.
If comes right after the big first month and just as everyone settles in for conference play. For Florida State, if it gets by Virginia Tech in the opener, and as long as there isn’t a whiff on the road at Louisville, it should kick off the Willie Taggart era 5-0 before making that trip to the Hard Rock.
Miami starts out against LSU and has a few landmines to step aside over the first month, but it might also be 5-0 if all goes well. For the Canes, with four of the next five games on the road, they’d better win this.
4. Louisville at Clemson, Nov. 3
No one’s going to think the Lamar-less Louisville team will challenge for the ACC title – this is more about whether or not the Cardinals can somehow catch the Tigers napping.
Clemson – if all goes according to plan – should be amazing. However, it doesn’t get two home games in a row until the end of the season – alternating home and away dates almost the entire way. This is going to be one of those dog days moments, coming off a showdown against NC State, and then the ACC Game of the Year at Florida State.
Louisville? It should be ready to rock, with two weeks off to great ready for the home game against Wake Forest, and then comes this. If the Cardinals happen to beat FSU in late September, this game could become very, very interesting.
3. Miami vs. LSU (Arlington, TX), Sept. 2
As always, there are some nice non-conference games and some great ACC vs. SEC showdowns. But this one will be the marquee matchup of the opening weekend.
Louisville and Alabama play the night before in Orlando, and Clemson deals with Jimbo Fisher and his Texas A&M team the week after, but this is the opener. This is the tone-setter for two teams that can’t afford a loss to kick things off.
Win, and Miami is almost certainly going to be 5-0 going into the Florida State battle. Lose, and all of a sudden, that date at Toledo looks scary and North Carolina might not be a sure-thing.
The last time these two played? LSU 40, Miami 3 in your 2005 Peach Bowl. The last four times these two played – going back to 1969 – have all been BRUTAL blowouts. The Tigers won 20-0 in ’69, and Miami won 30-0 in ’68 and 44-3 in 1988.
2. Miami at Virginia Tech, Nov. 17
With some due respect given to the rest of the Coastal, the winner of this is almost certainly going to play for the ACC title.
Miami took down the Hokies in a 28-10 statement last season, and then went on to rock Notre Dame’s world. This time around, Virginia Tech should come into this on a roll – if all goes well.
The opener against FSU will be a problem, but five of the next eight games are at home, and six of the nine games after the Noles are against teams that didn’t go bowling last season. Coming off the road date with Pitt, the Hokies are in Blacksburg for the final two games.
Not only is Miami ending a brutal run of four road games in five dates with this; it’s coming off a week of getting cut-blocked at Georgia Tech.
1. Clemson at Florida State, Oct. 27
Florida State can afford a misfire against Virginia Tech or Miami along the way, or even at Louisville, but it needs to enter October 27th with no more than one loss. Do that, and this is almost certainly for the Atlantic title and a spot in the ACC Championship- – even with a whole lot of work left to do.
The season will have a series of big test moments for new head coach Willie Taggart, but this will be the big one. This will probably be against the No. 2 – at worst – team in the country.
This is it for Clemson. As long as it doesn’t choke along the way at Texas A&M or on the road against a Wake Forest, or at home against a Louisville, there’s no one on the schedule who should be less than a ten-point dog to this group.
But coming off the NC State game, and with Louisville ahead, this is the sandwich of all ACC sandwiches. However, win this, and book the tickets to Charlotte for a shot at a fourth straight ACC Championship.