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Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Let's just say you had unlimited time and resources to spend every weekend this fall traveling around the ACC to see the best games of 2009. How would your travel schedule look? If you're missing a Thursday night game in Lane Stadium, then you're missing out.
Allow me to help.
The schedule has to be realistic -- Thursday/Saturday games are doable but can be tough. I saw 11 of the 12 teams play live last fall (sorry, NC State), but only made it to nine of the campuses during the season. The deeper you get into the schedule, the more you have to predict who's going to be doing what in their respective division races. And the more trips you plan, the more you realize the season is a lot longer than just 13 games. Heck, you could pack your suitcase for the entire month of September with this ACC schedule.
Let's keep it real, though. Only the best games. This plan allows you to see 11 teams (sorry, Virginia) on eight different campuses. If you're looking for a bye week, hit the Big East road trip, where my colleague Brian Bennett is willing to cut you a break. There's no rest for the weary in the ACC.
Here's your ticket to the ultimate ACC road trip (good luck finding hotels):
Sat., Sept. 5
Virginia Tech vs. Alabama (Georgia Dome)
The fun has just begun. This is a game that will go a long way in determining which direction both of these teams will head, and whether the Hokies are ready for prime time. If you want to fly home on Sunday go ahead, but if it were me, I'd catch a nonstop flight from Atlanta to Tallahassee. Gotta go through Atlanta to get there by Monday anyway.
Mon., Sept. 7
Miami at Florida State
Both of these teams will need to get off to a good start so they've got some momentum heading into tough early schedules. Both teams will also have some kinks to work out, yet will have to look close to November form -- Miami in particular.
Thurs., Sept. 17
Georgia Tech at Miami
Welcome to ... Land Shark Stadium? It's not a bad beer (if you like the Corona-types), but it's also got nothing to do with the U. Same can be said for much of the gameday atmosphere here. Nonetheless, they're trying to change that this season, and it will be a critical Coastal Division matchup. Game 2 for the Canes. For your sanity, I recommend flying into Ft. Lauderdale instead of Miami. But don't get too comfortable there ...
Sat., Sept. 19
Boston College at Clemson
This is the first chance to get a look at the Eagles' new offense against an ACC opponent, and by now, Frank Spaziani might have finally decided on a quarterback. It's an early Atlantic Division game, and BC should be looking to avenge last year's home loss while Dabo Swinney should have some confidence.
Miami at Virginia Tech
Ah, decisions, decisions. North Carolina at Georgia Tech will also be an important Coastal Division game, but you've already been to Atlanta. Plus, the Hokies are the frontrunners to win the division. Will they be 3-0 going into their third straight home game? 2-1? Miami will need all the momentum it can get heading into ...
Oklahoma at Miami
That's right, back to Land Shark Stadium. This is a can't-miss game, and another gauge for how far Miami has come and how far it still has to go. The question is what kind of a wave Miami will be riding at this point -- North Shore of Oahu or an undercurrent.
Georgia Tech at Florida State
It's two of the better teams in each division, and considering how tight the game was last year (FSU fourth-quarter fumble in the end zone, ouch), odds are it will be another good one since many of the players return for both teams.
Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech
This game played a huge role in determining the 2008 Coastal Division champ, and history is likely to repeat itself.
Thurs., Oct. 22
Florida State at North Carolina
It's the first Thursday night game in Chapel Hill -- ever. Can't miss it. And since you're in the heart of ACC country, you may as well stay for a while.
Sat., Oct. 24
Maryland at Duke
You're on Tobacco Road. It's not going to kill you to drive eight miles. Duke is a team worth watching this year, and every coach in the ACC is taking the Blue Devils seriously.
Thurs., Oct. 29
UNC at Virginia Tech
As soon as "Enter Sandman" begins on a Thursday night, Lane Stadium becomes one of best college football venues in the country. Both teams should be in the front of the Coastal Division race at this point, and will be in the midst of back-to-back Thursday night games. The Hokies, though, will have had a bye week to prepare.
Sat., Oct. 31
NC State at Florida State
Grab a Red Bull and wake up. Catch a flight to Tallahassee because this game very well could determine the Atlantic Division winner. You can sleep in ... May?
Florida State at Clemson
Welcome to Death Valley. Have fun tailgating, but make sure you're in your seat in time to see the traditional run down the hill, and check out Howard's Rock if you can. These should be two of the best teams in the Atlantic Division, but how will Florida State be feeling after a date with Russell Wilson?
Florida State at Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons have beaten the Noles for three straight years. Can they do it again, with a little help from home field advantage? In addition to the recent history between these teams, it's also an important Atlantic Division game. At this point, Wake Forest either could be a surprise or a spoiler.
Maryland at Florida State
The Terps are young, so they should be more of a second-half-of-the-season type of team. This could be a trap game for the Noles, especially if they're thinking ahead to Florida.
North Carolina at NC State
Until Virginia starts evening the series with Virginia Tech, it's time to pay attention to some more compelling rivalries out there, and this one should be good.
Dec. 5 ACC championship game
You made it through the whole season; you may as well find out who won. See you there.