5. South Carolina at Clemson (November 27)
The Carolina-Clemson rivalry has long been defined by its lawless scrums surrounded by swelling mobs of hooting onlookers. Sometimes the melees even involve football players. Ok, that happens all the time too.
The 'Cocks won last year's relatively non-Thunderdome experience by 17 points, only the rivalry's fourth margin of victory of more than two scores since 1996. The 106th iteration of the South's bloodiest (literally) feud befouled half of the ACC Championship Game, with Clemson appearing right after a loss to its SEC rival.
- Series history: Clemson leads, 65-38-4.
- Last game: South Carolina won 34-17.
- Last game at Clemson: Clemson won 31-14.
- A prediction: Clemson 24-21.
4. Clemson at #22 Auburn (September 18)
The only team to appear twice on our list, Clemson has its out-of-conference plate full this year. You don't wind up with a backpiece like this from scheduling home games against FCS West, ladies! Shakin' the Southland has already begun gameplanning for Auburn's inventive offense, and Track Em Tigers previews unit matchups.
- Series history: Auburn leads, 33-11-2.
- Last game: Auburn won 23-20 (2007 Chick Fil A Bowl). (Afterward, your totally sober correspondent got into a shoving match with an overserved Country Gentleman while northbound on MARTA. My opponent's friends were busy quoting Harry Caray. Despite the content of this and the previous writeup, I agree with the majority on the high quality of Clemson's fanbase.)
- Last game at Auburn: Auburn won 35-13 (1971).
- A prediction: Auburn 35-17.
3. No. 18 North Carolina vs. No. 21 LSU (September 4)
Though neither school is ranked in the preseason top 15 nor widely expected to win a division title, the nationally televised Chick Fil A College Kickoff at our own Georgia Dome should be the ACC's highest-profile opportunity to assert itself against the SEC all year. Of course, this game is rapidly losing luster (we're hemorrhaging luster!) as UNC's best players are finding themselves shelved.
The SEC won the first two Kickoffs, with Alabama outscoring Clemson and Virginia Tech by a combined 68-34. After this year's game, which features two loaded* defenses and sputtery offenses, the running Kickoff score may inch all the way up to something like 71-37.
* On NCAA 11, there are no academic infractions.
- Series history: LSU leads, 5-1.
- Last game: LSU won 30-3 (1986).
- Last game at the Georgia Dome: That's never happened.
- A prediction: LSU 4-2.
2. No. 16 Georgia Tech at No. 23 Georgia (November 27)
Two top-25 state rivals collide. Last year's contest featured Georgia further raining on the ACC Championship Game parade, posting a very Paul Johnsonly 339 rushing yards on the Jackets defense.
Both Tech and Georgia are converting to 3-4 defenses and replacing starters at key positions, including Georgia's quarterback and two of Tech's four most critical players. Likewise both teams enjoy back-loaded schedules, meaning each will have time to adapt and may wind up highly ranked by the time Hate '10 kicks off. More importantly, the winning team will get to enjoy a few moments of horticulture, as has become recent tradition.
- Series history: Georgia leads, 60-39-5.
- Last game: Georgia won 30-24.
- Last game at Georgia: Georgia Tech won 45-42.
- A prediction: Georgia 31-27.
1. No. 4 Florida at No. 20 Florida State (November 27)
New head coach Jimbo Fisher's Seminoles welcome the freshly Tebowless Gators. If Florida makes it past Alabama on October 2 while FSU's defense performs half as well as its offense, the Sunshine Showdown could have all sorts of BCS ramifications. If that doesn't happen, a competitive meeting would be a nice consolation for uncommitted viewers, as the Gators have rung up victories of 27 points or more four times in the past six years.
The state's various roadside advertising professional associations, however, have announced unanimous support of Florida for the indefinite future.
- Series history: Florida leads, 33-19-2.
- Last game: Florida won 37-10.
- Last game at Florida State: Florida won 45-15.
- A prediction: Florida State 21-20.