If you are an ACC Football fan, you know the conference suffers from a national perception problem. Fair or not that's the way it is. A poor record in recent BCS games and some ugly losses will do that.
This season the ACC enters the season with five teams in the top 25 of the USA Today College Coaches Polls. That's nice but if the ACC loses many of their most important non-conference games the perception of the ACC not being a top-tier football conference will continue. Here are the ACC’s 10 most important non-conference games.
1) Virginia Tech vs Boise St. 9/6
Virginia Tech must win this game. This is nothing against the Boise St. team. In fact I have plenty of respect for the Broncos. They are legit top 10 team and are fully capable beating the Hokies, but if the ACC wants to be considered an elite conference, their pre-season favorite needs to win a marquee game like this. Boise St. is winning over people, but there is still a stigma associated with losing to Boise St.
2) Miami vs Ohio State 9/11
I don't think Miami is good enough in the trenches to win at Ohio State, but a win over a top five national power would do wonders for Miami and the ACC. It would also throw Jacory Harris into the Heisman race. This is kind of game the ACC has not won in recent years. Sometimes the ACC has barely competed in a matchup like this. Even a competitive game will help the conference.
3) North Carolina vs LSU 9/4
This year's edition of Chick-Fil-A College Kick Off features North Carolina and LSU. Twp years ago when Alabama crushed pre-season ACC favorite Clemson, the ACC's reputation took a major hit. Last year Virginia Tech kept it closer, but still Alabama prevailed. This is a prime time game that the ACC needs to win sooner rather than later. I hope UNC comes in at full strength if you know what I mean.
4) Florida State vs Florida 11/27
Florida State has not beat Florida since 2003. That's six straight losses to the Gators. In the last three years, the closest game was 2009's 27-point loss. Florida has become one the country's very best programs under Urban Meyer . FSU doesn't have to win, but they have to prove they are starting to close the gap. If Jimbo Fisher somehow beat Meyer in his first year he'd buy 5 years of Nole Fan good will.
5) Florida State vs Oklahoma 9/11
Jimbo Fisher could start his tenure off with a bang if he won at Oklahoma. It's a game that reunites brothers Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and his brother Mark Stoops the defensive coordinator of Florida State. Oklahoma enters the season in most poll's top 15. This would be a major eye opening win. The Noles can't go into Norman and get routed.
6) Georgia Tech vs Georgia 11/27
I've seen Georgia ranked anywhere from the top five to 25. The Bulldogs have been an SEC power under Mark Richt for years. When Georgia Tech beat Georgia in 2008 and ran for over 400 yards the rest country took notice. The Dawgs won in 2009. If Paul Johnson beats Mark Richt for the second time in three years, that would make some real noise.
7) Clemson vs Auburn 9/18
Dabo Swinney has done some good things at Clemson. He led Clemson to the Atlantic Division Title, and beat in-state rival South Carolina in 2008. The only thing he lacks is a signature non-conference win. A victory at SEC member Auburn would do that. Sorry Gamecock fans, the Tigers have dominated that series and defeating South Carolina doesn't stir anyone nationally.
8) Boston College vs Notre Dame 10/2
Beating Notre Dame these days has lost some of its luster, but there is renewed hope for the Irish under new coach Brian Kelly. Boston College could be a surprise team in the ACC and winning against the Irish still grabs people attention.
9) Wake Forest vs Stanford 9/11
Wake Forest never gets enough credit for some of their nice conference wins and I'm not sure why. Last year they beat Pac-10 Bowl team Stanford, and in 2008 they beat a good Ole Miss squad. They are without Riley Skinner, but Jim Grobe knows how to maximize his team's talent. A second win over Jim Harbaugh 's Stanford Cardinals would be a solid victory.
10) Any game against a FCS School
Remember how the ACC suffered a couple of humiliating losses to FCS schools last season, Duke Losing to Richmond and Virginia losing to William & Mary. Even though the Blue Devils and Cavs were not considered among the ACC's best teams, this was nationwide news. A loss to any FCS school will have the rest of the country again ridiculing the ACC.
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