Now presenting the top 10 games to watch in the ACC for 2012.
NC State vs. Tennessee, Aug. 31. The ACC season kicks off in style with a doubleheader in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. NC State opens up against Tennessee in a critical ACC versus SEC showdown. The opportunity to play an SEC opponent does not come frequently to the Wolfpack. Since 2000, they have played only South Carolina and went 0-2 against the Gamecocks.
Clemson vs. Auburn, Sept. 1. Game 2 of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game features the defending ACC champion against the team that won the national championship in 2010. These teams have played great games the past two seasons -- Clemson won in 2011 and nearly beat the Tigers two seasons ago, losing in overtime.
Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech, Sept. 3. A huge Labor Day showdown between the top two teams will impact the Coastal Division race. Virginia Tech has won two straight in the series and gets the advantage of playing at home where the Hokies are 15-1 in their last 16 season openers in Blacksburg.
Penn State at Virginia, Sept. 8. This is another big opportunity for the ACC to score a nonconference win against a quality opponent. And, yes, Penn State is still regarded as a quality opponent despite what has happened there the past several months. These two teams have not met since 2002, a game Virginia lost.
Clemson at Florida State, Sept. 22. The two favorites in the Atlantic Division meet in Tallahassee in a game of critical importance in the race for the ACC championship game. That means September features absolutely huge games for both divisions. The home team is 9-1 in this series.
Florida State at NC State, Oct. 6. If NC State truly is going to be a player this year, the Wolfpack have got to beat the Seminoles at home. They did it in 2010 but were shut out 34-0 last year in Tallahassee.
Virginia Tech at Clemson, Oct. 20. These teams played twice last year and Clemson won them both en route to the ACC championship. Both teams are expected to compete for the league title again, so this one is critical for both teams. Virginia Tech faces Florida State and Clemson in the regular season this year for the first time since 2007.
NC State at North Carolina, Oct. 27. The Tar Heels have lost five straight to NC State, and with a bowl ban for this year, you can bet they are going to place much more emphasis on this game. Beating the Wolfpack may feel like the equivalent of getting to a bowl, especially if it derails their rival's chances at the ACC title.
Florida State at Virginia Tech, Nov. 8. This game will have an impact on the ACC race, and could also have an impact on the national title race if the Noles are as good as advertised. But they have struggled on Thursday nights and will enter what is sure to be a wild atmosphere in Blacksburg.
South Carolina at Clemson, Nov. 24. The most intriguing of the in-state rivalry games among Florida State-Florida and Georgia Tech-Georgia, Clemson is desperate to end a three-game losing streak to the Gamecocks. South Carolina is currently ranked higher, so taking down a preseason top-10 team would be really big.
** Bonus! Miami vs. Notre Dame, Oct. 6. I had to have this game on the list, just for old-time's sake. Yeah, I know that they played in that dreadful Sun Bowl a few years ago to renew what used to be a super duper rivalry, but getting a neutral-site game in Chicago against the Irish is a pretty big deal. Even if both teams are just so-so this year.