Ranking the best ACC football rivalries: Where does Duke vs. UNC land?

College football is driven by rivalries so let's rank the best rivalries in the ACC and see where Duke vs. UNC stacks up.
Duke v North Carolina
Duke v North Carolina / Peyton Williams/GettyImages

More than any other American sport, college football is driven by rivalries. However, with conferences expanding to bloated proportions, it is getting more and more difficult to preserve the games fans truly care about.

In some instances, it is impossible. That's especially true when rivals find themselves in different conferences as is becoming common these days.

However, the ACC has taken steps to ensure that each team has three annual rivals on the schedule. For Duke, that means yearly showdowns with North Carolina, Wake Forest, and NC State.

All-time, Duke is 42-37-5 against the Wolfpack and and 60-41-2 against the Demon Deacons. However, it will always be the rivalry with the Tar Heels that gets the folks in Durham lathered up, regardless of the sport.

That is far from the greatest ACC rivalry on the gridiron, though. Here's a list of the best ACC rivalries, games that are worth circling on the calendar each year.

No. 5: North Carolina vs. Virginia

On the surface, the series between North Carolina and Virginia may not move the needle in the modern era of the game as neither program is a national factor on an annual basis. However, this history of this rivalry, known unofficially as "The South's Oldest Rivalry", makes it an important series and one that is protected by the ACC.

Technically, this isn't the oldest rivalry in the South as Auburn and Georgia began playing a season before UNC and Virginia. Still, this grudge dates back to 1892 making it one of the earliest annual rivalries in college football.

It is also a closely contested series. UNC holds the all-time lead 66-59-4. This century though, Virginia has the slight edge, 13-11.

There have been 129 playings of this series making it the most contested rivalry in the ACC. Though it doesn't carry the juice that other games on this list do, it is still an important and historic rivalry that is worth celebrating given what it meant to the early years of college football.

No. 4: Duke vs. North Carolina

Proximity breeds contempt. So too do contrasting cultures. Both factors are at play between Duke and North Carolina meaning that any time the two universities meet in any sport from basketball to football to team duck racing, the stakes are high and the hatred will be flowing.

Though the football series between the Blue Devils and the Tar Heels doesn't carry the national significance that the basketball rivalry does, it is still a heated contest when it rolls around each season. That is partially proven by how close the games typically are. In fact, the last two games have each been decided by three points or less.

Overall, Duke trails in the series 64-41-4. What's more, the Heels are riding a current five-game winning streak over the Devils.

Now that Duke is no longer arguably the worst major conference program in the nation as it was not all that long ago, this series has become more competitive, though. From 1970-2011, Duke won only seven times in the series but since then, the Blue Devils have won five of the 12 meetings proving that this is a rivalry that is only heating up.

No. 3: Virginia vs. Virginia Tech

Another protected in-state rivalry in the ACC is Virginia vs. Virginia Tech. Playing annually for the Commonwealth Cup, the schools first met in 1895 and have played annually since 1970.

All-time Virginia Tech leads 61-38-5. That includes a current three-game winning streak. What's more, since 1999, the Hokies have won 22 of 24 meetings.

Despite Tech's recent dominance in this series, it is still an important rivalry in the ACC. Played annually on Thanksgiving weekend, this is a showdown for state bragging rights.

For this series to continue to be significant, though, both teams are going to have to improve. The Cavilers have finished the season as a ranked team only once since 2005 and the Hokies have done so only twice since 2012.

No. 2: Clemson vs. Florida State

One of the newest rivalries in the conference, Clemson and Florida State rank high on our list because they are the two heavyweights in the conference right now. In fact, the winner of their annual rivalry usually has the inside track to the league crown.

This series began in 1970. Since then, the Seminoles lead 21-15. That includes last season's 31-24 win in Clemson.

Early in the series, FSU was dominant. From 1970-2002, the Seminoles were 14-2 against the Tigers. Since then, though, Clemson has won 13 of the 20 meetings.

In the current era of college football, both Clemson and Florida State are among the small group of teams that realistically have their sights set on a playoff spot. Thus, when this rivalry is played, there is usually plenty of national intrigue. That's why this rivalry is important despite it not being one that is as old as other series in the conference.

No. 1: Florida State vs. Miami

Another relatively new series, Florida State and Miami have been playing since 1951. However, the amount of hate that has built up between the two fan bases has created the ACC's top rivalry.

All-time Miami leads 35-33. However, Florida State has won 10 of the last 14 meetings in this series. That includes the last three.

Along the way in this series, there have been some amazing games. In 1987, FSU head coach Bobby Bowden decided to try a two-point conversion instead of kicking an extra point to tie the game in the final minute. The gamble failed and Miami prevailed.

In 1991 and 1992, FSU missed late field goals that both sailed wide right to cost the Seminoles wins. Those games have gone down in college football lore as "Wide Right I" and "Wide Right II". Then, in 2000, FSU missed another late FG to the right late in the fourth quarter to lose again in a game deemed "Wide Right III".

During the years, some of the greatest players in the sport have played in this rivalry as these two schools have been NFL factories. That star power combined with the hatred between the two fandoms makes for a can't-miss rivalry and that's why this series is easily the ACC's best.