The ACC hasn’t been the strongest football conference over the years, but it can’t be denied that the conference has produced some of the best rivalries in the sport. The ACC is one of the oldest college football conferences and has the history to prove it, but this list is focused on rivalries that are the best the league has to offer right now.
This league might be in the shadow of the SEC and Big Ten, but that doesn’t take away from the competitive matchups within the conference. Clemson has certainly diluted the ACC over the years because of its national dominance, and that has made its rivalries in the league very one-sided, so you won’t see the Tigers on the list. The most important factor to remember here is that this is about recent history and rivalries that have the potential to remain relevant in the near future.
So, let’s take a look at the best ACC football rivalries right now, in no particular order.
Best ACC Football Rivalries Right Now
Miami – Florida State: 35-31-0
This in-state rivalry has led to some legendary matchups over the years. Both teams have impressive histories that include national championships and numerous first-round NFL draft picks. The entire state of Florida is one of the best football hotbeds in the country, and both schools typically recruit some of the best in-state talent. Seven times over the past 10 years, this game has come down to one possession.
This ACC football rivalry used to be more competitive when the matchup had conference title implications on the line. When Clemson decided to become a national juggernaut, that shifted some things. But conference titles aside, it is safe to say that these schools do not like each other. Both of these teams bring everything they have for this one every year, regardless of either team’s record. The state of Florida has some of the most passionate fans in the nation, and that plays a major factor in this rivalry. Whether the game is held in Tallahassee or Miami, you can at least be guaranteed an electric crowd.
The Hurricanes versus the Seminoles has bred some legendary moments and is guaranteed to be a good game year after year. This rivalry is too competitive every season to leave it off this list.
North Carolina – Duke: 63-41-4
The UNC-Duke rivalry runs deep through both schools no matter the sport. While this rivalry is most relevant in basketball, it still holds water in the college football world. Both Durham and Chapel Hill despise one another, and that intensity is brought to this yearly ACC matchup.
Duke football is no way, shape, or form a good program, especially when compared to UNC, but none of that matters once both of these programs hit the field. This rivalry is a big deal across the state because of both programs’ extremely dedicated fan bases. Even if the quality of football leaves something to be desired, there is no denying the energy in the air during this one is truly something special.
The Blue Devils had a good run from 2016 through 2018 where they took down the Tar Heels three-straight times. Other than that, North Carolina has dominated this rivalry in recent years, even if most of its wins were only by one possession. Both of these programs have a strong level of hatred for one another, and that has led to an intense ACC football rivalry on and off the field.
Virginia Tech – Virginia: 59-38-5
Another in-state rivalry appears on this list, with this one arguably being the most important in recent years. With Virginia steadily improving and Virginia Tech not being what it once was, this game has become more special than in years prior. Even though VT has come out victorious 19 times since 2000, the Cavaliers have always kept the game close and are certainly headed in the right direction.
There isn’t a better sight in college football than the Hokies entering the field to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” as 65,000 fans jump around. That energy is only intensified when this in-state rivalry comes to town. In-state rivalries always bring out the best of both teams – the players and the fans are desperate to earn bragging rights for their respective university that year.
This matchup has led to some great games over recent years and looks to continue to be competitive in the future.
North Carolina – Virginia: 64-58-4
The South’s Oldest Rivalry runs deep with 126 total meetings between the two teams dating all the way back in 1892. Both schools are only three hours apart from one another, leading to hot tensions when crossing state lines. There aren’t many ACC football rivalries quite like this one.
While there might not be as much hatred between both schools when compared to other rivalries on this list, this game has delivered year after year. Besides the occasional blowout ever five years or so, this matchup between the Cavaliers and the Tar Heels is always within one or two possessions. Both schools sit in the Atlantic Division, meaning there is always conference title hopes on the line. Even in UNC’s best years, Virginia typically finds a way to stun the Tar Heels and walk away with the win.
Both Virginia and UNC’s football programs are trending upward, and this rivalry will continue to be competitive for years to come. This might not be the first rivalry that jumps to mind, but the gritty competition between these schools certainly earns them a spot on this list.
Pittsburgh – Syracuse: 41-31-3
Oddly enough, both Pitt and Syracuse have played some phenomenal games. This might not be considered a traditional rivalry, but this matchup certainly has become more interesting over the years.
These schools have played one another for quite some time now, with 75 showdowns between them. Pitt has been the clear favorite in this matchup for a number of years now, but Syracuse likes to pull a rabbit out of a hat and keep this game close. This game has come down to the closing minutes eight times in the past 10 years. Everyone remembers the legendary shootout between these schools back in 2016 where they broke the FBS scoring record with 20-total touchdowns.
Definitely one of the more quiet rivalries in college football, but that doesn’t take away from how exciting this game has become in recent years with both programs in the ACC.