- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
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Rivalries are an intrinsic part of college football, but not every rivalry is created equal. And every rivalry goes through cycles as each team has its own ups and downs. The Alabama-Auburn could be reaching new heights, but only after Auburn won six straight and then Alabama won four of five.
The ACC has its own share of intense rivalries, some peaking, others fading. Here is a look at some of the conference’s best rivalries and how each is faring.
Florida State vs. Miami
The facts: Miami leads the series 31-27, although Jimbo Fisher has dominated the Hurricanes during his head coaching tenure. The fifth-year Seminoles coach is 4-0 and has doubled up Miami in points over those four games.
The meter: Room temperature
For the better part of two decades this iconic rivalry was as hot as the Florida sun, but simultaneous struggles by both programs cooled what could have been considered the country’s best rivalry at one point. With Florida State back as an annual national title contender and Miami still yet to make an ACC title game, the two fan bases see this rivalry in a different light at the moment. FSU fans expect to beat Miami right now; Canes fans hope to derail the Seminoles’ title hopes. It looked as if the rivalry was making a comeback last season when both teams entered the game undefeated, but Florida State rolled Miami. If The U can ever return to the ranks of college football’s elite and with both programs now in the ACC, this could once again be a rivalry that dictates the national landscape. And with FSU in the Atlantic and Miami in the Coastal division, there could be repeat matches in the ACC championship game, with the winner moving on to the College Football Playoff.
Clemson vs. Florida State
The facts: Florida State leads the series 19-8, and the Seminoles are coming off a 51-14 trouncing of the Tigers in Death Valley.
The meter: Boiling
And it could boil over soon, possibly when the two reconvene Sept. 20 in Tallahassee, Florida. The Tigers were undefeated and a national title contender last October when they were embarrassed on their home field. The offseason is naturally a period for temperatures to settle, but Jameis Winston fanned the flames in March by tweeting a picture of Clemson’s stadium with the caption “our house.” During ACC media days, Tigers defensive end Vic Beasley said he felt disrespected that most believed Florida State would run through the ACC. Beasley, who finished second to Winston in the ACC preseason Player of the Year vote, told ESPN.com recently he believes the Tigers’ defense is good enough to hand Winston his first career loss.
Duke vs. North Carolina
The facts: Nothing says college football like two schools disagreeing on the all-time series record with the disputed game dating back to … wait for it … 1889. UNC claims a 59-37-4 record and Duke feels it trails only 38-58-4.
The meter: Heating up, NBA Jam style.
The Tar Heels won 21 of 22 games from 1990-2011, although two of those wins would later be vacated. But you get the point: This was as one-sided of a rivalry as you could possibly get. Up until 2012, the only noteworthy factoid of this game was the 1889 game where both teams claimed a win, accusing the other of ducking out of the game. David Cutcliffe’s vision of Duke becoming the East Coast’s version of Stanford is coming together, though, and the Blue Devils have been one of the better ACC teams over the past two seasons. In 2014, the prime time Thursday game on Nov. 20 could decide the ACC Coastal Division.
Dabo vs. Ol’ Ball Coach
The facts: Clemson leads the series 65-42-4, but Steve Spurrier holds a 4-1 edge over Dabo Swinney. The irony is Swinney’s win came as interim coach in 2008, and it might have helped him land the Clemson gig.
The meter: Like bacon grease in a hot skillet.
The repartee between these two is the best part of this rivalry, helping elevate it to a national level. Swinney made it known the Tigers are the only school from the Palmetto State to make it to a BCS game, and Spurrier was quick to point out South Carolina beat Clemson in both of those seasons. In July when Swinney said Spurrier was from Pluto, Spurrier quipped that Pluto was no longer considered a planet. The banter has raised the rivalry’s profile outside the state of South Carolina, and considering both programs figure to be annual College Football Playoff contenders, the country isn’t going get to tired of listening to these two for quite some time.
Miami vs. Virginia Tech
The facts: The Hurricanes lead the all-time series, although both have been middle-of-the pack programs the past few seasons.
The meter: Cooling
It was thought these two would annually compete for Coastal titles, but their most intense battles occurred during the Big East’s heyday. The Hokies are 13-11 over the past two seasons, and Miami is still climbing back to national relevancy. There is certainly potential for this rivalry to earn its place back among the national landscape, but there are no definitive signs that both of these programs are making their way back toward the top 10 of the rankings.
Florida vs. Florida State
The facts: Florida leads 34-22-2, but 16 of those 19 wins came before the 1977 season. The series has been much tighter since then.
The meter: Inherently high, but stagnant
Much like the Florida State-Miami rivalry, this annual November contest was one of the most anticipated games each college season. What helped put this rivalry on another level was the dynamics of the coaches, Bobby Bowden and Spurrier. The rivalry has been lacking since Spurrier left the Gators following the 2001 season, though. Urban Meyer pummeled Bowden for five seasons before Fisher turned the tide back in the Seminoles’ favor. In 2012, both teams were 10-1, but that was a flash-in-the-pan season for the Gators, who are 30-21 since 2010. If Florida can bounce back under Will Muschamp, this once again could be one of the premier college rivalries. Both programs are recruiting extremely well.
Virginia vs. Virginia Tech
The facts: Virginia Tech owns a 53-37-5 record against their chief in-state rival.
The meter: Falling, falling, falling.
Never a game that consistently affected the national landscape, this was still a big game within the borders of Virginia, which is underrated when it comes to producing elite high school recruits. A few seasons ago it seemed as if Mike London had turned around Virginia to the point where the Cavaliers would annually compete with the Hokies for conference titles, but UVa is coming off a 2-10 season. It’s not as if Virginia Tech has reeled off the wins as of late, either. The series has had better days.
NC State vs. North Carolina
The facts: The Tar Heels are 65-32-6 against the Wolfpack, although both programs have undergone coaching changes over the past few years.
The meter: Holding steady
Granted, it’s holding steady at a very low level, but there is the opportunity for this rivalry to gain a little more relevancy in the coming seasons. Many feel the Tar Heels are the Coastal favorite in Larry Fedora’s third season, and NC State second-year coach Dave Doeren expects the Wolfpack to be much better in 2014 with transfer quarterback Jacoby Brissett. For now, though, this game plays second and third fiddle to the rest of the rivalry’s involving ACC schools. Check back next year, guys.
Georgia vs. Georgia Tech
The facts: The Bulldogs own a 64-39-5 record against the Yellow Jackets, although Georgia's media guide claims only 37 losses to its in-state rival. Georgia Tech can't dispute that the Bulldogs have owned this series since 2001.
The meter: Surprisingly warm and susceptible to volatile jumps
It's odd to think a series would be subjected to jumps when Georgia has lost only once over the past 13 seasons, but the rivalry has produced some fun games to watch, most recently a double-overtime thriller last November. Only twice since 1997 have both teams been unranked, and during that same span both teams have been ranked seven times. Georgia has routinely been rated higher, but what really rankles Tech fans is that the Bulldogs won both times Tech had the higher ranking entering the game. If you throw out the 2012 game when Georgia won 42-10, since 2004 the game has been decided by an average of seven points.
Florida State vs. Louisville
The facts: Florida State owns a 12-2 record against Louisville, but the teams have not played since 2002. The Cardinals just joined the ACC for this coming season.
The meter: Low but poised for a significant rise
This does not register as a rivalry yet, but it could certainly become one of the more intense games over the course of the next few seasons as Bobby Petrino builds Louisville in his own image. The Cardinals were a BCS-caliber team under Charlie Strong, but Petrino could go through some growing pains. But once he gets his offense in place, this could be a game that determines the ACC Atlantic. Florida State is poised to be one of the ACC's best teams as long as Fisher is the coach, and Petrino's track record suggests he should get Louisville to that level soon enough. Not to mention they're two of the best offensive minds, and who wouldn't want to see these two teams light it up? You can guarantee there won't be any Papa John's pies on the scoreboard when these two play.
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