ACC schools usually play some good non-conference opponents. After all, many of their rivals are SEC teams. The ACC also frequently schedules teams from the Big East.
There are several intriguing non-conference games this season and four are played at neutral site locations. Clemson and Miami are each featured twice.
Here is my pick for the Top 10 ACC non-conference games for the 2012 season:
1. South Carolina at Clemson, Nov. 24
There’s no love lost in this in-state rivalry, and the war of words between Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier grows louder each year. But the Gamecocks have backed up the talk, winning three in a row in convincing fashion. With the game in Death Valley, the Tigers need to get back on the winning side of this series.
2. Auburn vs. Clemson (at Atlanta, GA), Sept. 1
The second Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game (see no. 9) pits two schools that are rather familiar with each other. The two have played three times since 2007, with Clemson finally notching a win last year at home. Auburn finished strong in 2011 while Clemson was crushed by West Virginia in the Orange Bowl.
3. Miami vs. Notre Dame (at Chicago, IL), Oct. 6
While these two schools haven’t been at the top of their game lately, this still makes for a great non-conference match-up. And it’s a prime time, nationally televised game at Soldier Field in Chicago. The proximity to Notre Dame will essentially make it a home game for the Irish.
4. Florida at Florida State, Nov. 24
The Seminoles have put together a two game winning streak against the Gators after losing six in a row from 2004 to 2009. Last year’s game was a snoozer with FSU only gaining 95 yards on offense while Florida managed only 184. Florida hopes to get back on the winning side of this series, but FSU is primed for a good year and the game is in Tallahassee.
5. Notre Dame at Boston College, Nov. 10
Notre Dame and Boston College, the only two Catholic schools in the FBS, have met 21 times since 1975. The Irish lead the series 12-9 and have won the last three meetings.
6. Miami at Kansas State, Sept. 8
Miami and Kansas State first met last year at Sun Life Stadium in Miami Gardens. The Wildcats were able to escape with a 28-24 win. This year’s game is the last of their home-and-home series.
7. Georgia Tech at Georgia, Nov. 24
Georgia has dominated Georgia Tech lately, winning 10 of the last 11 meetings. But the Yellow Jackets have played well in their last four trips to Athens, winning 45-42 in 2008. Their three losses were by an average of 8 points.
8. Penn State at Virginia, Sept. 8
After opening at home against Ohio, this will be Penn State’s first road game without Joe Paterno at the helm since 1965. Virginia warms up against Richmond before welcoming the Nittany Lions and new head coach Bill O’Brien.
9. Tennessee vs. NC State (at Atlanta, GA), Aug. 31
The Volunteers and Wolfpack play in the first game of the Chick-fil-A Kickoff game doubleheader. It will be only the second time these two have met and first time since 1939. Tom O’Brien’s Wolfpack are on the rise while Derek Dooley seat could get hotter with a Volunteer loss
10. Cincinnati vs. Virginia Tech (at Landover, MD), Sept. 29
Both teams will be tested coming into this game, but Cincinnati will be rested after two off weeks, one of which precedes this match-up. The two schools last met in the 2009 Orange Bowl which the Hokies won 20-7. Tech also leads the overall series 5-4.
Other top 2012 ACC non-conference games:
Duke at Stanford (Sept. 8); Florida State at USF (Sept. 29); BYU at Georgia Tech (Oct. 27); Maryland at West Virginia (Sept. 22); NC State at Connecticut (Sept. 8); North Carolina at Louisville (Sept. 15); Virginia at TCU (Sept. 22); Virginia Tech at Pittsburgh (Sept. 15)