<
>

The ACC's top 10 games of 2016

If you have trouble simply narrowing a top games list to 10 contests, you know it was a wild season. And with the ACC putting a team in the College Football Playoff for the third straight year, there were plenty of high-stakes contests this fall -- some of which didn't make the cut.

Here is our countdown of the ACC’s top 10 contests.

10. Oct. 29: Louisville 32, Virginia 25

The two-win Cavaliers were so close to pulling off the upset of the year, scoring a touchdown and capitalizing on a go-ahead two-point try with less than two minutes remaining. But Heisman favorite Lamar Jackson connected with Jaylen Smith for a 29-yard score with 13 ticks left, lifting the Cards to a 7-1 record.

9. Sept. 24: North Carolina 37, Pitt 36

The Panthers appeared to control the game, building leads of 12-0 and, later, 36-23 in the fourth quarter. But over 25 plays across two final drives, Mitch Trubisky led the Tar Heels to the end zone twice, finding Bug Howard both times, the last a two-yard strike with two seconds left. UNC converted four fourth-down plays across those two drives.

8. Sept. 5: Florida State 45, Ole Miss 34

The Seminoles’ Monday night season-opener featured a seesaw of emotions, as FSU completed the greatest comeback in school history, recovering from a 28-6 second-quarter deficit to win by double-digits. Deondre Francois’ first start was a sign of things to come, as he absorbed big hits and threw for 419 yards, while eventual league defensive player of the year DeMarcus Walker tallied 4.5 sacks.

7. Oct. 29: Clemson 37, Florida State 34

Clemson’s first win in Tallahassee in 10 years didn’t come easy, as the Atlantic rivals brought out the best in each other across 60 minutes. The Tigers blew an early 10-point lead, fell behind by eight, then went back-and-forth with the Noles across a fourth quarter that saw three lead changes in the final 5:25.

6. Oct. 15: Clemson 24, NC State 17 (OT)

The Tigers have had several close calls throughout their 12-1 season, but none quite like this one against the Wolfpack, who missed a potential game-winning 33-yard field goal at the end of regulation before falling in overtime.

5. Oct. 8: Florida State 20, Miami 19

Rivalry games never lack for intensity, as this one featured Francois getting knocked out of the game briefly and Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya losing a tooth. FSU, which entered at a disappointing 3-2, was able to turn its season around by coming back from 13-0 and withstanding a fourth-down Miami TD pass in the final two minutes that was set to tie the game. Of course, Walker blocked the extra point, clinching the Noles win and sending Miami to the first of its four straight losses.

4. Sept. 10: Pitt 42, Penn State 39

As we were saying about rivals … This Keystone State matchup was renewed after a 16-year absence, and the Panthers raced to an early 28-7 lead. But Penn State’s second-half charged left the Nittany Lions within striking distance late, before Ryan Lewis picked Trace McSorley off in the end zone with just over a minute left. No one knew it at the time, but the Pitt win ended up playing a large role in keeping the Lions out of the College Football Playoff, adding one more tweak to what should be an even more intense game next year in State College.

3. Oct. 1: North Carolina 37, Florida State 35

UNC jumped to an early 21-0 lead and probably could have even extended that, but instead left an opening for FSU, which scored 21 fourth-quarter points en route to a 35-34 lead with 23 seconds left. No one would have felt worse than Nick Weiler, who had his previous extra point blocked. But the Heels kicker redeemed himself with a 54-yard buzzer-beater, ending the nation’s longest home winning streak.

2. Nov. 12: Pitt 43, Clemson 42

This list is really all about kicker redemption, isn’t it? Pitt kicker Chris Blewitt, who had a kick blocked earlier, drilled a 48-yarder with six seconds left to -- you guessed it -- end the nation’s longest home winning streak. Deshaun Watson threw for an ACC record 580 yards but the Tigers were outscored 9-0 in the final frame and were unable to convert a decisive fourth-and-1 try late, leading to the Panthers’ game-winning drive.

1. Oct. 1: Clemson 42, Louisville 36

“College GameDay” in Death Valley. Two unbeaten division teams. The likely 1-2 finishers in Heisman Trophy voting. What more could you ask for? The Tigers and Cardinals delivered a classic, with Clemson going on a 28-3 run at one point and Louisville answering with a 26-0 run, before Watson responded with a pair of fourth-quarter TD strikes. The Cards came up one yard short, as James Quick stepped out of bounds after an 11-yard gain to the Tigers’ 3 … on fourth-and-12. These teams lived up to the hype and then some, and this remains the gold standard for ACC play this season.