Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich
The only way to get to every good ACC game this fall would be to buy a personal plane and pack a permanent suitcase. This year’s schedule -- nonconference included -- is loaded with must-see games. And, of course, they’re all must-win games, starting this Thursday with South Carolina at NC State. I narrowed it down, though, and put an emphasis on the conference matchups that will help determine the ACC champion to come up with the top 10 games to watch in the ACC this fall:
1. Virginia Tech vs. Alabama, Atlanta, Sept. 5: The Hokies will face one of the toughest defenses in the country, and they’ll do it without Darren Evans and with a backfield filled with youth and inexperience. In order to have a shot at the national title and give the ACC’s national reputation a boost, they must win this game.
2. Miami at Florida State, Sept. 7: These two in-state rivals always provide prime-time entertainment, and this game will determine the early frontrunner in the ACC standings. It will also show which former traditional power is leading the race to resurgence.
3. Oklahoma at Miami Oct. 3: Considering how well Miami played against Florida last year, expect the Canes to show up for this one, especially if they go into it with an early lead in the conference race and an upset at Virginia Tech. A little momentum can go a long way.
4. Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, Oct. 17: If the season plays out as many predict, this will be the game that determines the Coastal Division winner. They tied for first place last year, but the Hokies won the tiebreaker by winning this regular-season game a year ago.
5. Georgia Tech at Miami, Sept. 17: The Canes will have had a bye week to at least look like they tried to prepare for Paul Johnson’s triple-option offense, unlike last year. It’s one of three early conference games that will help determine Miami’s fate and play a role in the Coastal Division race.
6. Florida State at Clemson, Nov. 7: The talent and speed on the field in this game will be impressive, as will the matchup between FSU offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher and Clemson first-year defensive coordinator Kevin Steele. This game will feature two frontrunners for the Atlantic Division.
7. Florida State at Wake Forest, Nov. 14: This is worth watching simply to find out if the Demon Deacons can beat FSU for the fourth straight time. Not only has Jim Grobe and his staff made their mark in Florida recruiting, but it’s paid off on Saturdays. If the Deacs are the dark horse, this is the game to prove it.
8. North Carolina at Georgia Tech, Sept. 26: UNC’s defense against the Jackets’ offense will be one of the better matchups of the season, and it’s also an important early Coastal Division game. The Heels will have had three games to break in their new receivers and this game will show whether or not they’re ready to take the next step under Butch Davis.
9. North Carolina at NC State, Nov. 28: The in-state rivals are in a race to the top of their respective divisions, and both are facing higher expectations in Year 3 of their coaching staffs. The battle for state supremacy continues.
10. Clemson at NC State, Nov. 14: Both programs should be in contention for the Atlantic Division this season, and this game could push one ahead of the other. At this point in the season, Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker should be playing like a veteran, and it could be a great matchup of quarterbacks with Russell Wilson.