It could be said that 2007 was a down year for the ACC, as only Wake Forest and Boston College went on to win their postseason contests. Yet, there were signs for optimism even if the ACC is 1-9 in all-time in BCS bowl games.
Boston College, Virginia and North Carolina all seem to be programs on the rise that could help bolster the overall strength of the conference. Even Duke grabbed a few headlines in the off season that didn't involve Coach K or stripper scandals. Will 2008 be the year that the ACC starts flexing its muscle or will it remain just a less criticized version of the Big East?
- Wake Forest- Wake Forest ended last season on a high note by beating UConn in its postseason bowl game after winning the ACC the year before. Riley Skinner returns at quarterback and could have a good chance at being the standout quarterback in the ACC this season. The Deacons also return their leading rusher in Josh Adams, but will have to find a way to replace top receiver Kenneth Moore. Wake will benefit from favorable scheduling that exempts them from facing the Hokies, and setting up face offs with Clemson (Thursday night game) and Boston College at home.
- Boston College- Many people will be doubting the Eagles as they look to replace the greatest thing to happen to Chestnut Hill since Doug Flutie and Catholicism. The Eagles will also have to replace defensive stalwarts Jamie Silva, JoLonn Dunbar and Dejaun Tribble. Yet, Brian Toal and B.J. Raji will return this season to the defense and new quarterback Chris Crane performed well in spring football. Top recruit Josh Haden will lead the back by committee. The Eagles may not have the same magical run as last year but their recent string of bowl victories is hard to ignore. It should be another good year for the ACC's distant cousin.
- Clemson- The Tigers are always a trendy pick to shoot up the ACC standings each year, yet they always fall short. Yet, these constant failures were enough to warrant a hefty contract extension for Tommy Bowden. Something tells me with a different last name, his run may have ended in Clemson a year or two ago. The Tigers do return 15 of their 22 starters but will have to replace four starters on the offensive line including four year starter and All-American tackle Barry Richardson. Clemson will be returning 1,000 yard rusher James Davis and 1,000 yard receiver Aaron Kelly. If the offensive line shapes up, this could be one of the most explosive offenses in the ACC, well at least until that end of season collapse.
- Florida State- It will be tough for Florida State to get going this year, figuring they face a myriad of suspensions to open the season. It will be Drew Weatherford's last chance to turn it around this season as his stay at FSU has mirrored Chris Wienke's pro career more so than his collegiate one. Leading rusher Antone Smith returns as well as standouts cornerback Myron Rolle and reciever Greg Carr. The Seminoles should continue their mercurial ways and find themselves sitting right around .500 come bowl season.
- NC State- The traitor Tom O'Brien begins his second season at the helm of the Wolfpack. His first one was mostly something to forget, as the team struggled throughout. However, they were a very young team which makes them a likely candidate to be this year's sexy upstart team. Yet, I still don't see them making the leap. Daniel Evans returns at quarterback, but he is far from a sure thing even to retain the starting job. Tom O'Brien has done a nice job recruiting but the season really hinges on the production of returning starters TE Anthony Hill and TB Andre Brown to lead the rest of the 'Pack.
- Maryland- It will be hard to replace the formidable running tandem of Lance Ball and Keon Lattimore, which could cause the Terps to struggle all season long; losing LB Erin Henderson only adds insult to injury. The passing attack should be the strength of the team as Darrius Heyward-Bey brings his NFL skill set back to College Park. Unless the landscape in Maryland shapes up in a hurry the season should mostly proceed at a Terrapin pace all season long.