Top 10 Non-Conference Games For The ACC In 2015

10. LSU @ Syracuse (September 26th)

On paper this contest doesn’t look like much, but it could be a stepping stone for head coach Scott Shafer and the Orange. Shafer has compiled a 10-15 record in his two seasons at Syracuse, and needs to begin building something sooner than later after finishing 3-9 a season ago. The Orange will play Rhode Island, Wake Forest and Central Michigan before hosing¬† the Tigers, and could potentially enter the game with a win total that matches their 2014 total. They may not be able to pull the upset against LSU, but a solid effort against a traditional SEC power could go a long way to getting the Orange back on the road to respectability.

9. Virginia @ UCLA (September 5th)

For the second consecutive season Virginia will kick off their season against UCLA. Last year the Cavaliers surprised some by hanging in the game against the Bruins, before finally falling 28-20. Many thought the close contest was due to a subpar effort from UCLA, who went on to finish 10-3, and not a strong showing from the Cavaliers, who stumbled to a 5-7 mark. Regardless of the reason, Virginia put a scare into the Bruins thanks to a solid defensive effort, and will look to take the next step this season as the game shifts to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

8. Boise State @ Virginia (September 25th)

20 days after facing UCLA the Cavaliers will host Boise State for a Friday night tilt at Scott Stadium. The Broncos finished 12-2 in 2014 under first year coach Bryan Harsin, and knocked off Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl, making this the biggest game on Virginia’s slate in 2015. The game also has an interesting subplot for a Boise State side which seems to always be chasing respectability in a college football world dominated by national powers.

The ACC reportedly decided recently to consider the BYU Cougars a non-conference Power 5 school — not Boise State, despite the Broncos stellar run of nearly a decade (and a MNC in 1984). The ACC must have at least one Power 5 opponent a year, and Boise State already has match ups scheduled against Virginia and Florida State, making the decision curious to say the least. This will also give the Broncos plenty to play for when they travel to Virginia to take on the Cavaliers.

7. Notre Dame @ Clemson (October 3rd)

As part of Notre Dame’s commitment to the ACC they will travel to play Clemson in what will be only the third contest between the schools. They last played in 1979, a Clemson win that offset their 1977 loss to Notre Dame, the National Champion of that season. The game featured 36 future NFL players, including Joe Montana and Dwight Clark. This day the two would play on opposite sides of the field, four years before they would connect for “The Catch” as members of the San Francisco 49ers.

The Irish were 8-5 in 2014, and finished 2-2 against ACC schools. They will have six match ups against ACC schools in 2015, and will play Clemson three more times between now and 2025. Meanwhile, the Tigers are coming off a 10-3 mark in 2014, including a dominant bowl win over Oklahoma.

6. Florida State @ Florida (November 28th)

No matter the state of either program, the annual match up between the ACC and SEC Florida programs is guaranteed to be exciting. The rivalry has had many memorable moments, especially in the mid 1990s. In 1996 the teams would face off as the number one and two teams in the nation, then faced off again in that years Sugar Bowl, a 52-20 win for the National Champion Florida. The following season they played arguably the best game of the rivalry, a 32-29 comeback win for the Gators. Florida also holds the distinction of handing the Seminoles their last regular season loss, a 37-26 setback in 2012.

Florida holds the series advantage at 34-23-2, but Florida State has won four of the last five over their in state rival. Both teams will feature significant changes for the 60th installment of the contest in 2015; Florida State has lost many of the seniors that lost only one game the last two seasons including Jameis Winston, and Florida will have new head coach Jim McElwain who replaced Will Muschamp.

5. Georgia @ Georgia Tech (November 28th)

A rivalry that has traditionally leaned heavily in favor of Georgia took a big step in the direction of Georgia Tech last season. The Yellow Jackets used an improbable 18 second drive, capped by a 53-yard field goal to force the game into overtime, where they upset the Bulldogs 30-24. The victory capped what had been a fantastic month of November for the Yellow Jackets, and propelled them to a spot in the Orange Bowl that would have seemed impossible following consecutive losses to Duke and North Carolina in October.

2014 was the year that head coach Paul Johnson and his unusual triple-threat offense burst onto the national radar. He was named ACC coach of the year, and the Yellow Jackets won 11 games for the first time since their 1990 National Championship. Johnson and Georgia Tech hope to return to that level, and the Bulldogs have the same aspirations in the SEC. This game can’t come soon enough.

4. Louisville Vs. Auburn (September 5th – Georgia Dome)

The ACC staked their claim as one of, if not the best conference in college football in 2014. They did this in part by dominating the de facto top conference SEC, shutting them out on rivalry weekend four games-to-none, and secured a big win in the Orange Bowl (Georgia Tech 49, Mississippi State 34). The ACC also had more wins against Power 5 opponents than any other conference, and sent 11 of its members to bowl games. The SEC meanwhile wilted down the stretch, a rarity for a conference that has put it’s stamp on college football for the last decade.

The conference rivalry will resume on the opening Saturday of the season in Atlanta. The schools will enter the game from similar directions, with both on the cusp of being “elite” in their conference. Louisville finished 9-4 in 2014, while Auburn played better than their 8-5 mark would indicate. Both school appear ready to take the leap to the next level, and can take a big step to doing that with a win in this one.

3. Nebraska @ Miami (September 21th)

The Cornhuskers and Hurricanes will resume a historic, if not unusual rivalry. The two schools don’t see each other often, this year will mark only their 12th meeting, but three of those contests have decided National Championships. Miami upset Nebraska in 1984 to claim their first title as Nebraska failed on a two point regulation instead of playing for the tie, only to return the favor in 1995, giving Nebraska coaching legend Tom Osborne his first championship. They also met in the 2002 Rose Bowl to decide the BCS Championship, a lopsided 37-14 victory for the Hurricanes.

Last season those 1994 Cornhuskers that beat Miami were honored in Lincoln before the teams 41-31 win over Miami. The win also marked the 400th for Nebraska in the famed Memorial Stadium. The series shifts back to Miami on September 21st, in what will be new head coach Mike Riley’s first attempt to beat the Hurricanes at the helm of the Cornhuskers.

2. Notre Dame Vs. Boston College (November 21st – Fenway Park)

The “Holy War” resumes after a three year hiatus, and will takes its show on the road for this edition. The two schools have made up half of the last two Pinstripe Bowls at Yankee Stadium, and will now face off at Fenway Park in November. Notre Dame leads the rivalry 13-9 and won the last meeting between the schools in 2012, 21-6 at Alumni Stadium.

This contest might not have National Championship implications, as Boston College has been saddled in mediocrity and Notre Dame has tumbled from the highs of their 2012 season. However, the fun factor for this one could be off the charts. The Irish vs the Eagles. A cold November night. Fenway park. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night.

1. Ohio State @ Virginia Tech (September 7th)

The defending National Champions travel to Blacksburg for a prime time contest that will close out the opening weekend of the season on Monday, November 7th. The Buckeyes have no doubt had this contest circled on their calenders since last season, as they will look to avenge the only blemish on their 2014 season. The Hokies dominated the Buckeyes in Columbus in their week two meeting a season ago, 35-21. The win proved to be the high point for Virginia Tech in an otherwise disappointing campaign. For Ohio State, the loss nearly kept them out of the first College Football Playoff, a four team tournament they went on to win convincingly.

Anyone who thinks that Ohio State will gain revenge in a dominating fashion could be in for a surprise in September. Yes, Ohio State is the better side, but a prime time contest at a raucous Lane Stadium is no easy task, even for the defending champs. The Buckeyes will hope to remove some of the sting from last years loss, and the Hokies will try to show it was no fluke. This will be a match up fitting the nation’s attention at the end of the season’s first weekend.

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