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Ranking Boston College’s ACC Rivalries - ACC Edition

Mitchell Wolfe ranks which of BC's conference opponents are their best and worst rivals.

As we slip deeper into the summer, the football content machine slowly winds down. Which means we naturally have to start generating some controversy and/or discussion to keep the content gods happy. One of the best ways to do this make lists and rank things. Now, some people think these lists are a lazy way to make content and inspire discussion. So without further ado, let’s get into the list.

This article will rank the rivalries between BC and its fellow ACC schools. I recently wrote articles that put the ACC football stadium and uniforms into tiers. This article will instead follow the format of my positional rankings articles, where I rank the entities instead of putting them in groups and ranking the groups. For these rankings, I will prioritize how competitive the rivalry is on a year-to-year basis, especially in recent years. With that being said, it will also pay homage to iconic moments in the past. Finally, I think the similarity between the two schools is also a contributing factor. If two schools are either similar in terms of their geography, student body make-up, academic prestige, and general sports history, they could be more inclined to dislike each other (i.e., USC and UCLA, Georgia and Florida); alternatively, a diametric opposition between the two could also breed hatred (i.e. Notre Dame and Miami, Northwestern and Illinois).

Before we begin, I want to note that I came to an interesting conclusion writing this article: there is no one in the ACC that BC fans seem to hate with a passion, with specific regards to a football rivalry. We’ll get into the non-conference rivalries next week, where there is some real hatred, but I can’t think of times where I specifically hated any school on this list. Obviously, there can be short-term animosity towards schools that is centered around individual players, like Eric Dungey at Syracuse or maybe Jameis Winston at Florida State. But even after almost 15 years in the conference, it’s still difficult to determine who is BC’s principal rival. Just look at who BC plays during “Rivalry Week” on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Last year was obviously a weird scheduling year when BC drew Virginia. But in the previous four seasons, BC played Syracuse twice and Wake Forest and Pittsburgh once. BC lacks the tradition of playing the same opponent to end every season, like North Carolina and NC State, or Virginia and Virginia Tech. Nevertheless, with COVID hopefully in the rearview mirror and BC on the rise, we can hope that BC can develop a serious rivalry within the conference and create some meaningful rivalry matchups. So let’s get into the list!

13. Georgia Tech

GT leads the series 7-3 | Last Meeting: BC 48 - GT 27

A major part of keeping a rivalry alive is consistently playing each other. BC certainly does not have that with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Before this season, they had not played since the 4th-and-19 debacle in Ireland in 2016. These teams have only played each other 10 times in their entire history and frequently go several seasons without matching up. Obviously, a big reason for that is the divisions within the ACC and the rotating cross-divisional opponent. This year, for the first time since 2008, the Eagles and the Yellow Jackets will play in consecutive seasons. Besides being prestigious academic institutions (albeit in very different disciplines) in major media markets, these two schools do not have much in common, and thus don’t make for good rivals.

12. North Carolina

UNC leads the series 4-2* | Last Meeting: UNC 26 - BC 22

Like Georgia Tech, North Carolina fails to meet the criteria due to a lack of contests. Before 2020, BC and UNC had not played since 2013. These teams have only met up eight times, but two of UNC’s wins in 2008 and 2009 were vacated due to NCAA violations, leaving UNC with a 4-2 advantage over BC. BC has not won since 2004, a 37-24 defeat with Tom O’Brien as the head coach. The matchup last year was an absolute classic, with BC nearly upsetting the Tar Heels, but ultimately throwing an interception on a two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game, but North Carolina got two points the other way instead. Obviously, a basketball rivalry will never exist between these two schools, but a football one would be very welcome. Both BC and UNC are good schools, and their football programs relatively similar. With BC recruiting the Mid-Atlantic / Upper South region more heavily, clashes over recruits could breed contempt as well. Overall, however, these teams simply do not have the history for a significant rivalry.

11. Virginia

BC leads the series 6-1 | Last Meeting: UVA 43 - BC 32

Much like North Carolina, BC could have a much stronger rivalry with UVA, if only they played each other more. They’ve only met five times since BC joined the ACC in 2005 and BC has dominated the series. That is, until last year’s meeting when the Cavaliers took advantage of an injured and depleted Eagles’ team. As previously mentioned, with BC recruiting the fertile DMV area more aggressively, the conflict between the schools and fanbases could develop in the coming years. But without more matchups, there is no fertile ground for this rivalry to blossom.

10. Duke

BC leads the series 5-3 | Last Meeting: BC 26 - Duke 6

As two of the more academically prestigious schools in the conference, BC and Duke should have a natural rivalry. But their position in opposite divisions has prevented that from happening. To develop a rivalry with BC, Duke is going to have to make some changes. The program has turned stagnant under David Cutcliffe’s watch. Like BC, in order to become competitive in the ACC, the Blue Devils need a new young coach to breathe some life into their program. Duke has found some good players here and there over the last few seasons but hasn’t been able to capitalize on a chaotic Coastal division. With the ACC returning to its normal scheduling framework, it probably will be a long time before BC sees Duke again, but at least this time it should be in Chestnut Hill for the first time in over a decade.

9. Louisville

Louisville leads the series 7-6 | Last Meeting: BC 34 - UL 27

Obviously, this is the newest conference rivalry, as Louisville only joined the conference in 2014. Since joining, Louisville leads the series 4-3. The Cardinals took the first three, but BC has taken three of the last four, with their only loss coming late in a shootout after losing Anthony Brown to injury. There have been some very fun matchups in this young rivalry, including the AJ Dillon explosion in 2017. Like the previously mentioned rivalries, this one does not have much history, and the schools do not have much in common. However, with these two scheduled to play each every season indefinitely, there is plenty of time for memories to be made between these two avian teams.

8. NC State

BC leads the series 10-7 | Last Meeting: BC 45 - NCST 24 (2019)

Before joining the ACC, these two schools had not played each other since the 1930s. This year was the first time the Wolfpack and the Eagles did not play each other since 2004, the year before BC joined the ACC. Since 2009, no team has won more than three consecutive matchups, and nearly every game has been competitive. The problem is neither of these schools has particularly storied histories as football programs and have not been part of significant games. Going into this season, both the Wolfpack and Eagles are considered to be dark horse contenders to possibly unseat Clemson as the king of the Atlantic division. They play Clemson in consecutive weeks, then face each other off a bye week. So by mid-October, we should know who will be the Atlantic Division champion. Putting some real stakes into this rivalry should help it climb the rankings.

7. Pittsburgh

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Pitt leads the series 17-15 | Last Meeting: BC 31 - Pitt 30

This is a rivalry that I would love to rank higher. But these two schools went a few years without playing each other and now they rarely play due to the cross-divisional rotation in the schedules. After BC left for the ACC in 2004, these schools did not meet again for ten seasons, when Pittsburgh followed in BC’s footsteps. After that, the Eagles and the Panthers did not match up for another five years. But the last two meetings have been excellent games that came down to the final possessions. Pitt and BC both exist in pro-sports markets, where they struggle to find their niche when they’re not winning lots of games or have iconic players (Larry Fitzgerald and LeSean McCoy; Matt Ryan and Luke Kuechley). If the ACC decides to move to nine conference games and add an additional cross-divisional opponent, I would hope that BC could add Pitt as a protected rival, as these schools have a lot in common and match up very well against each other.

6. Clemson

Clemson leads the series 19-12-2 | Last Meeting: Clemson 34 - BC 28

Objectively, it’s hard to even call this a rivalry. After joining the ACC in 2005, BC took four of the first six intra-conference meetings of this series. In 2008, the Boston College Gridiron Club created the O’Rourke-McFadden Trophy to commemorate the rivalry and the meeting between the two schools in the 1940 Cotton Bowl. But the Eagles have only taken the trophy home once (2008). They’ve come close in 2014 and last year, but have ultimately failed to take down one of college football’s new powerhouses. This rivalry is one of polar opposites, as BC and Clemson are extremely different schools. While the fanbases have gotten along well, as many BC fans report that visiting Clemson is the best possible road trip in the conference, there always seems to be an air of condescension from Clemson’s fans. Now, given Clemson’s recent success and BC’s lack thereof, that superiority is very warranted. But it will certainly make it that much sweeter when BC finally takes down Clemson. 

5. Miami

Miami leads the series 24-6 | Last Meeting: BC 27 - Miami 14 (2018)

Many may consider this one of BC’s principal rivalries, but with the massive discrepancy in the wins column, it’s hard to take it seriously. Obviously, this rivalry grew out of one of the most iconic plays in college football history. However, after Flutie’s famous throw to Phelan, BC did not defeat the Hurricane again until 2007, suffering 15 consecutive defeats. Since joining the ACC, the Eagles have had the upper hand on the U, with three wins against two losses. But the rivalry has fizzled due to a lack of contests. These two teams won’t play this year, making it three years in a row without a renewal of the rivalry. If the ACC adds another cross-divisional game to the ACC schedule, that could go a long way towards making this one of the premier rivalries in the conference.

4. Florida State

FSU leads the series 12-5 | Last Meeting: FSU 38 - BC 31 (2019)

I think if you polled BC fans about which ACC school they disliked the most, Florida State would be a popular answer. I would venture to say that many other fanbases in the conference strongly dislike Florida State, if for no other reason than the infamous FSU Twitter. However, hate alone is enough to build a rivalry. FSU is a blue blood program that has owned BC since they joined the ACC. The Eagles took three of their first five matchups, but the Seminoles have only lost once since 2010, the 35-3 drubbing on Red Bandanna night in 2017. BC has been on the losing end of two close games against FSU in recent years (both at the hands of Tamorrion Terry, who is now being indicted for felony murder). Those losses greatly stung and sapped lots of the Eagles’ momentum going into the end of the season. The Seminoles are still struggling to find their feet in the Mike Norvell era, and BC will need to finally capitalize and get a long-awaited win against their partners in dark red and gold.

3. Wake Forest

BC leads the series 14-11-2 | Last Meeting: WF 27 - BC 24 (2019)

Like some of the aforementioned rivalries, this game always matters to BC fans as a barometer for the season, but it has not reached a fever pitch of hatred. The two schools are very similar, as academically prestigious private institutions. This series has been extremely competitive since BC joined the ACC (who could forget the 3-0 debacle from 2015?), with the Eagles winning nine out of the seventeen games. Interestingly, the home team has not won this game since the Eagles defeated the Demon Deacons in Steve Adazzio’s ACC debut in 2013. The rivalry took a year off in 2020 due to COVID scheduling, but Wake is slotted into the default rivalry game spot in the weekend after Thanksgiving. However, this rivalry fails to get into the top two because this game has rarely had meaningful stakes attached to it. Neither team has been able to mount a serious challenge to Clemson for the Atlantic Division crown. Like NC State, the Demon Deacons have an outside shot to win the division this year. The season-ending matchup could seriously influence who wins the Atlantic Division, and which teams get sent to which bowl games.

2. Virginia Tech

VT leads 19-10 | Last Meeting: VT 40 - BC 14

Obviously, this matchup has had some classic games in recent years. Even beyond “Lane Stadium goes silent!” in 2007, games in 2008, 2014, and 2019 have come down to the wire. As BC’s protected cross-divisional rival from the Costal, this series has been played every year since even before both teams were in the ACC (minus a 2004 skip, after VT joined the ACC and BC remained in the Big East for one season). Going into any season, the Virginia Tech game is always circled for BC fans as the lynchpin for how a season will play out. Despite the Hokies’ commanding lead in this series, BC fans believe that the result of the Virginia Tech game will inform whether the Eagles are for real or frauds. This game is seemingly always a good test for both teams, and the fanbases seem to respect each other. Unfortunately, there have been a few times in the last few years where BC laid an egg in this game (five turnovers in 2020, “It will come together, and it will be beautiful” in 2017, 49-0 in 2016, etc.). However, for this season, the two programs seem headed in opposite directions: Justin Fuentes is on one of the hottest seats in college football, while Jeff Hafley and the Eagles seem to be an ascendant program and a dark horse in the ACC. If Fuentes is fired and Hafley stays for a while, BC could attempt to get the series closer to even in the next few year

1. Syracuse

Syracuse leads 32-22 | Last Meeting: BC 16 - SU 13

Naturally, the school that is geographically closest to BC in the ACC is also BC’s chief rival. Geography is obviously a major aspect of this rivalry, as these schools recruit the same areas for players. Additionally, both schools are academically rigorous and therefore attract similar types of students. Finally, both schools are private institutions trying to exist in pro sports markets. Even if you dismiss Cuse’s argument as “New York’s College Football Team”, with specific regards to the city, they still have to fight for attention in the Buffalo market. These two schools were traditional rivals even before the ACC when they were both in the Big East. In the late 1980s and into the 90s, Cuse dominated this rivalry, winning six consecutive, not-particularly-close games. BC broke up the streak with back-to-back wins in 1993 and 1994, but the Orange won the next four. However, after BC left for greener pastures, this matchup went on hiatus for five seasons. The Eagles and the Orange played as non-conference opponents in 2010, then did not play again until 2013, when Syracuse joined BC in the ACC. Since then, this has been BC’s most frequent season-ending game and has been a very even, competitive series. Since 2000, these teams have played 14 times and the record stands at 7-7. No team has won more than three in a row, but BC could bust that trend this season.

Ultimately, this rivalry is important for both sides because I feel that the result of this game dictates the general attitude about how a season went, especially if it is the final game of the regular season. If one team loses to the other, the fanbase seems largely dejected for most of the season, due to their negative perception of the other team. With that being said, it is not the sole determinant for judging a season. This year, BC must make the trek to upstate New York for the third consecutive season; however, by the time they play the Orange on October 30th, the Dino Babers era could be over. Ideally, their next coach will help elevate this rivalry to another level. As it stands now, these two schools seem to be destined for each other.

That’s all for the ACC rivalries. Sound off with what you thought of these rankings. Which opponents were too high? Too low? Head to the new Maroon and Gold forums to debate with fellow BC fans. Make sure you’re checking the site for the non-ACC rivalries coming later this week. 

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