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The Atlantic Coast Conference is going to be more competitive in 2013 than some may think. While it was basically a two-way battle over the past two seasons, that will not be the case this fall.
Florida State and Clemson are the two obvious choices for teams who will win the ACC's final BCS bid, but don't sneer at Miami, Syracuse or Virginia Tech, either.
Syracuse is replacing starting quarterback Ryan Nassib and first-round offensive lineman Justin Pugh. While two players don't necessarily make or break a team, Pugh and Nassib were definitely the core of the Orange offense in 2012.
'Cuse will be fine in the ACC, but a rebuilding year waits for no one. If you've been gutted, that's just the hand you have been dealt. Look for Syracuse to make a run at the conference title in 2014.
Virginia Tech is biding its time while it waits for one of two things to happen:
1. A new quarterback shows up at practice and turns out to be the team's savior.
2. Logan Thomas snaps out of his virtual coma and becomes the player that led the Hokies to the Sugar Bowl in 2011.
Virginia Tech will happily take either of those two scenarios in 2013, but the odds are firmly against them. With the season opener against Alabama, the Tide may just quell any confidence Thomas managed to gain over the offseason.
Of course, a win over Alabama could spark Virginia Tech to an undefeated season. After all, if you can beat the back-to-back national champion, who can't you beat?
Florida State has a new quarterback in Jameis Winston who could lead them to the conference title in 2013. The Seminoles are replacing first-round pick EJ Manuel with Winston, and it won't be easy.
However, Florida State has even bigger issues to handle. The Seminoles dominated the draft with 11 players selected in the seven-round span. That's great for recruiting, but that's also the equivalent of an entire side of the ball being taken from your roster.
Florida State will always be a contender, but replacing half a team is not conducive to repeating as a conference champion.
That leaves the Clemson Tigers. Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins return, but the Tigers did lose nine seniors to graduation or the draft and one underclassman (DeAndre Hopkins) to the draft.
Still, the experience that Boyd brings to the table should edge Clemson for the ACC Atlantic Division crown.
Miami has the talent to make it to the ACC title game against Clemson. Running back Duke Johnson is an incredible star on the Hurricanes' offense, and he could lead the way to an unexpected ACC title.
If Florida State were to upset the Clemson Tigers, Miami could take the Seminoles down and earn the trip to the Orange Bowl (or better).
Predicted ACC Champion: Clemson Tigers over the Miami Hurricanes.
Dark-horse candidate: Virginia Tech Hokies. If Logan Thomas can return to his 2011 self, then the Hokies could end up ripping the title away from any of the favorites.