ACC Rivalries of the Future

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ACC Rivalries of the Future

Most ACC fans can tell you who their rivals are, but it takes a more keen mind to tell you which teams are in their division.

When the ACC added Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College to their conference, they bucked the tradition of geographically aligned divisions in favor of the "zipper" approach.

The Florida schools were split into separate divisions, along with Ga. Tech and Clemson. The North Carolina schools were split into separate divisions as well. And, the Northeast schools (Virginia is considered Northeast in this historically Southern conference) were split into two divisions.

The affect has been mildly disappointing. The most praised conference rivalry, Florida State vs. Miami, has been barely simmering. Additionally, the conference champions have finished the regular season with no less than two or four losses. 

The "zipper" approach has saved them from a fate similar to that which befell the Big 12 this past summer. A division with Miami, Clemson, Ga. Tech, and Florida St would be a ratings behemoth not unlike the Texas-Oklahoma-A&M-Tech quorum of the Big 12 South.

But, the main flaw in the 2005 membership expansion, especially as it happened when the FBS gained a 12th game, is that is was not followed by a similar expansion of the conference schedule.

The Tar Heels' annual games against traditional rivals Wake Forest, Clemson, and Maryland were dropped in favor of far off visits to the ex-Big East teams: Miami and Virginia Tech.

What is needed now, especially in light of OTHER CONFERENCES moving to a nine-game schedule, is the addition of one more cross-division rivalry game for each team.

Rivalry No. 12 (Florida State vs. Virginia)

The Jefferson-Epps Trophy was created for what was, from 1992 to 2006, an annual game. I'm not sure what the lure was to create this except perhaps to make the Seminoles feel at home in their new conference. Florida State leads the series 13-2, so I am not sure resurrecting this one will create a zombie worth watching.

Rivalry No. 11 (Maryland vs. North Carolina)

This one is placed all the way down at No. 10 because the reason for restoring this game as an annual rivalry are simple. The two teams are traditional ACC foes (and we want to keep Maryland out of the Big Ten, don't we) and the two are the flagship universities of their respective states; quick, someone make a trophy.

Rivalry No. 10 (Boston College vs. Virginia)

Boston College is a geographical outlier in the ACC. Some have stated that this has led to some Eagle weariness. Adding an annual game against the second closest team (while not the same as adding two more Big East teams) will help reduce Boston College's average travel.

Rivalry No. 9 (Clemson vs. Miami)

Like the Boston College example, Clemson is the next-closest university to Miami without an annual rivalry. Although, it is perhaps the future football games that make this matchup a bit more appealing. Both schools are looking for their first post-expansion conference title, and could play off for it as early as this year.

Rivalry No. 8 (Wake Forest vs. Virginia Tech)

Believe it or not but these two schools are only two hours away from each other, across state lines. The two barely missed out on meeting in the 2006 ACC Championship game, and adding the Hokies' closest conference foe to the list of annual gridiron matchups could inject some much needed blood thirst into the conference.

Rivalry No. 7 (Florida State vs. Georgia Tech)

Again, proximity has been the theme of these first six matchups. Georgia Tech is the closest conference rival to Florida State (Miami is EIGHT hours away). And the possibility of playing this the week before or after the World's Largest Outdoor Bull-Gator-Tail Party could edge into SEC territory.

The Top Six

When all is said and done, the ACC can only add six permanent rivalries to its schedule. While the above six have potential, the following are my picks for inclusion when the ACC, within the next 6 years, expands to nine conference games.

Rivalry No. 6 (NC State vs. Duke)

No, I didn't forget about these two teams when listing the also-rans above. Adding the Blue Devil-Wolfpack game will complete the Raleigh-Durham triad of rivalries. The loss of North Carolina rivalries was one of the most lamented changes with the conference schedule in 2005.

Rivalry No. 5 (Wake Forest vs. North Carolina)

Listed slightly higher because of the football prowess (current and near past) is this last link to a full North Carolina round-robin. The Tobacco Road rivalries are at the heart of the ACC; the conference will benefit greatly by seeing a return.

Rivalry No. 4 (Maryland vs. Georgia Tech)

The theme here, if you haven't caught it yet, is the build up of traditional ACC rivalries. These two schools represent the extreme North and South of the pre-1990s conference. This rivalry probably won't bud to Civil War proportions, especially with the Terrapins down football program, but the game will always be an enjoyment to watch.

Rivalry No. 3 (Clemson vs. Virginia)

The Cavaliers find themselves in one of the strongest divisions in football this year, so adding another strong permanent rival may be too much, right? Wrong, this traditional ACC matchup will knit these teams closer to the heart of ACC football.

Rivalry No. 2 (Boston College vs. Miami)

Remember the Flutie Hail Mary? I'm sure these fan bases do. Now these two teams are far away but both are serviced by international airports. This old Big East rivalry deserves a revivalry. Perhaps the moniker "Catholics vs. Convicts" could be stolen away from the to-be-played Irish series.

Rivalry No. 1 (Florida State vs. Virginia Tech)

Who are the Hokies' biggest football rivals? Maybe it is Virginia by default, but ask most fans about which team they would like to play for all the marbles and their answer will be Florida State.

Florida State ended Tech's undefeated 1999 season in the BCS Championship Game. In 2005 the Hokies played the Seminoles with a chance for the BCS Championship (should eventual participants USC or Texas lose their regular season finale); but 8-4 Florida State upset them.

Bobby Bowden is gone, but he and Tech coach, Frank Beamer, were, for a number of years, two of the top three winningest active coaches (Paterno being the third). This rivalry will compete with the Miami-Florida State rivalry as the conference's marquee matchup and give the conference a bigger show for the national stage.

 

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