- Heather Dinich, ESPN Staff Writer
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The ACC enters bowl season with a 3-5 record against the SEC during the regular season, including Clemson’s season-opening win against Georgia, and wins by both Florida State and Miami over Florida. Here’s better news: The ACC has had the edge over the SEC in the prestigious Chick-fil-A Bowl with an 11-10 record over the past 21 years. Last year’s last-second win by Clemson over LSU was one of the ACC’s marquee wins of the season -- many said it was bigger than Florida State’s win over Northern Illinois in the Discover Orange Bowl.
This is the last season of the ACC’s partnership with the Chick-fil-A Bowl, as the College Football Playoffs will begin next year. The only way the ACC will return to the game is if it is selected through the playoff.
Can the ACC finish its historic partnership with a winning record over the SEC? Here’s a look back at the top five ACC wins over SEC opponents in the Chick-fil-A Bowl to help give Duke fans some hope heading into Tuesday’s game against Texas A&M:
1. Clemson 25, LSU 24 (2012): In the first matchup of 10-win teams in Chick-fil-A Bowl history, No. 14 Clemson came back from an 11-point fourth quarter deficit to defeat No. 8 LSU, 25-24. Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd played one of the best games of his career and drove the Tigers 60 yards in just 1:39 during the final drive. On fourth-and-16 -- one of the most memorable plays of the season -- Boyd found receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a 26-yard gain to keep the drive alive and set up the game-winning kick. Boyd passed for 159 of his 346 yards in the fourth quarter, earning honors as the most outstanding offensive player of the game. Kicker Chandler Catanzaro made a 37-yard field goal as time expired to seal the win. Hopkins turned in one of the finest performances in Chick-fil-A Bowl history as he set bowl records with 13 receptions for 191 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown before halftime.
2. Miami 27, Florida 10 (2004): The No. 14 Miami Hurricanes used defense and special teams to take an early lead and never looked back on No. 20 Florida. In the first quarter, Thomas Carroll blocked a Florida punt and Devin Hester returned it 78 yards for a touchdown. On the next series, Hester intercepted Florida quarterback Chris Leak and returned it 28 yards, leading to a Jon Peattie 47-yard field goal. Miami forced another Florida punt, and Roscoe Parrish returned it 72 yards for a 17-3 halftime lead. The Hurricanes’ big returns proved critical, as the Gators’ defense held Miami to only 50 yards total offense in the first half. Florida actually outgained Miami for the game (406 yards to 277) but Miami quarterback Brock Berlin threw for 171 yards against his former team. Berlin’s 20-yard touchdown pass to receiver Ryan Moore in the third quarter gave Miami a 24-3 lead to seal the school’s first Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl victory since 1980.
3. Virginia 34, Georgia 27 (1995): Virginia led 27-17 after three quarters, but early in the fourth quarter, Georgia kicked a field goal to narrow the margin to seven points. With 1:09 remaining, Georgia’s Jason Ferguson returned a Virginia fumble 10 yards for a touchdown. With a record crowd of 70,284 roaring, the ensuing kickoff was run back by Virginia’s Demetrius Allen for record-setting and game-winning 83-yard return for a touchdown.
4. Florida State 26, South Carolina 17 (2010): No. 19 South Carolina and No. 23 Florida State were so evenly matched that the game was the most-watched Chick-fil-A Bowl in history. Key offensive injuries on both sides, a lopsided turnover margin, and a bowl-record-tying four field goals by a single team would make the difference in Florida State's 26-17 win. Kicker Dustin Hopkins accounted for 14 of the Seminoles’ points with four field goals and a pair of PATs. South Carolina gave FSU five turnovers on three picks and two fumbles. South Carolina’s defense kept it close, though, and the game wasn’t decided until 5:27 to play when EJ Manuel connected with Taiwan Easterling for a game-clinching, 7-yard touchdown pass. Chris Thompson was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player after recording 164 total offensive yards -- 147 of which came on 25 rushes. Greg Reid was selected as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player with 71 return yards, five tackles, two forced fumbles and four breakups.
5. Clemson 14, Kentucky 13 (1993): The Peach Bowl’s decade of close games continued as Clemson came from behind to beat Kentucky, 14-13. Emory Smith, brother of NFL star RB Emmitt Smith, scored the winning touchdown on a 21-yard pass from Clemson’s fourth-quarter replacement quarterback, Patrick Sapp, with 20 seconds remaining.
North Carolina 21, Mississippi State 17 (1992)
Maryland 30, Tennessee 3 (2002)
4dAndrea Adelson and Matt Fortuna