- Andrea Adelson, ESPN Staff Writer
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The most anticipated college football game in the ACC will kick off in Death Valley later today, putting the league squarely in the national spotlight.
That is where the league wants to stay.
Either Clemson or Florida State will remain a national championship contender. The loser has a shot at staying in the top 10, and earning an at-large BCS berth should it win out.
"We are the only league out there that's got three undefeated teams, and to have two of them not only match up and play, but be in the same division, I think it's great," Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said. "I don't have any doubt that regardless of the outcome of this game, Clemson and Florida State are going to be very much in the picture the rest of the year. This is two really good football teams that are going to do everything they can to win this game."
Indeed, for the second straight year both teams face each other ranked in the top 10, with both national championship and ACC title hopes on the line. The winner of this game has produced the Atlantic Division representative in the ACC championship game in each of the last four years, making Florida State-Clemson a burgeoning rivalry.
The high stakes only add to it.
"You have a rivalry, it's usually when both teams are very competitive and both teams have success and it will decide something, and this has definitely become that in my opinion," Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said.
So who has the edge? Boston College coach Steve Addazio, who faced both teams already this year, has been besieged with that question from the media, friends and even family. Even he is undecided.
"They're really both two outstanding teams. I mean, absolutely justified in the rankings that they have," Addazio said. "They could be No. 1. They're that talented. They're each a little different maybe, but at the end of the day, they've got two powerful defenses, two explosive quarterbacks and teams that are loaded with playmakers. So I just think you're going to see one of the truly outstanding football games of the season. I think it's great for the ACC to have the quality of teams that we have in here, and now you have two of these teams on a national stage.
"I can tell you from my years in the SEC and in the Big Ten and different places I've been that I would put these two teams up against anybody."
This game is the headliner, but there are several others on the ACC slate in Week 8 that will have potential bowl ramifications. Here is a quick look at the other matchups.
Syracuse (3-3, 1-1) at Georgia Tech (3-3, 2-2), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. Even though the Jackets have lost three straight, their average of 421.3 yards of total offense ranks as the sixth-highest in school history. Syracuse, meanwhile, is averaging 220.7 yards per game on the ground -- on pace to be the team’s best mark since 1998 (228.4). The Orange have posted back-to-back 300-yard rushing games, the first time that has happened since 2003.
Maryland (5-1, 1-1) at Wake Forest (3-3, 1-2), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. There is no doubt Maryland has to keep an eye on Wake Forest receiver Michael Campanaro, who has two games this season with double-digit receptions. He needs 11 catches to pass Desmond Clark (1995-98) as the school's career receptions leader. Clark holds the mark with 216. Meanwhile, the Maryland run offense will provide a big challenge for the Deacs. Nikita Whitlock, who has 11.5 tackles for loss, will be a big key.
Duke (4-2, 0-2) at Virginia (2-4, 0-2), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. One team will pick up its first ACC win of the season. One key matchup to watch is Virginia running back Kevin Parks against the Duke run defense. The Blue Devils have shown flashes of defensive improvement but have been wildly inconsistent. They had a great showing last week, but coach David Cutcliffe wants to see that type of performance each week. Parks, meanwhile, had his third 100-yard rushing day last week against Maryland, giving him consecutive 100-yard rushing days.
Old Dominion (4-2) at Pitt (3-2), 7 p.m., ESPN3. The Panthers' run game has come to a screeching halt over the last two weeks, with a combined 31 yards on the ground against Virginia and Virginia Tech. Some of that has to do with the sacks that have lost yardage, but no running back has gone over 31 yards rushing since the win over Duke on Sept. 21. Coach Paul Chryst says there are a few things that can be done schematically to help the Panthers get back on track.
6dJeremy Crabtree and Brandon Chatmon