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The Most Important Game in the ACC This Week

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Earlier this week on Twitter, I joked that poll voters really shouldn't be forced to choose between UNC and Georgia Tech in advance of this Saturday's game. One of these two teams will win, and be securely ensconced in the Top 20. The other will lose, plummet right outside of the "also receiving votes category" and not make it off of ESPNU for months.

It's more key than that, however. The national perspective on the ACC has pretty much been set. There are three everybody agrees belong in the ACC. On the Coastal Division side, there's Virginia Tech, who has yet to be challenged, and outside of next week's game at home against Clemson, won't be until November. In the Atlantic there's Florida State and Clemson, who meet at 3:30. This is FSU's toughest game until the season-ender at Florida, and a loss here probably won't even drop them from the Top 25. Win or lose here, and they're probably ranked for the rest of the season and contending for the ACC title. If Clemson drops this game, they can redeem themselves the following week against Virginia Tech.

There's room in the national conversation for one more ACC team, and the only candidate is the winner of this week's Carolina-GT game. Both teams should be able to win their following games through at least the last two weeks of October when they each meet Clemson; at that time one should be 7-0 and the other 6-1. One will be ranked around 15th, the other still an afterthought. This game is the only opportunity these two teams have to get any publicity for the next month and a half. 

With all that being said, can Carolina win? I've already written on how stopping the Tech offense will be a tough order, but when Carolina has the ball, things are a little more in their favor. The Yellow Jackets' defense has been merely average in the ACC, and they've been susceptible to the rush, especially. And then, of course, there's the unstoppable force / immovable object combination of Georgia Tech's streak of scoring on the first play from scrimmage, and UNC's perfect defensive shutout in the first quarter of every game this season. This is a winnable game for UNC, but it's the most difficult one they'll see for a month. So while everyone's absorbed with Florida State and Clemson, remember, this is the game that's going to shape October in the ACC.