As the 2010 season draws closer and closer, every team has questions entering the summer after spring practices conclude.
The ACC appears to be ready for another dramatic year with multiple contenders and talented players on both sides of the ball.
How will things shake out and who will be the household names this fall?
This article examines the good, the bad and the ugly of college football in the ACC.
It asks the questions that are going to define this season and attempts to answer what most people cannot help but wonder.
So, without further ado, 20 burning questions about the ACC in 2010.
Feel free to chime in with your opinions as well.
I have made this argument before. While some still doubt Christian Ponder, this guy has the inside track for ACC Player of the Year in 2010.
Even with a four-game stretch he missed with an injury, Ponder threw for nearly 2,500 yards and nearly a 2-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio.
Coach Jimbo Fisher has done a good job surrounding Ponder with extra talent.
Ponder with have explosive weapons to light up the scoreboard and, considering the sad state of the defense last season, he will need to put up points early and often.
Oh yeah, it doesn't hurt when you hit 70 percent of your passes and throw for at least 250 yards in eight of nine games played last season.
I know there are other candidates like the versatile Russell Wilson from North Carolina State, the constantly improving Tyrod Taylor of Virginia Tech and the emerging Jacory Harris of Miami. Heck, even Georgia Tech's Josh Nesbitt will be around to bring competition.
However, Ponder is ready for a breakout year and his numbers will show it.
Only if quarterback Jacory Harris will let him.
Coach Randy Shannon has put himself is an odd predicament. After complaining about his salary, he has put the pressure on himself to walk the walk as it were.
After all, this is still the University of Miami.
Even though the Hurricanes were good in just about every category last season, good is simply not good enough.
5-3 in the ACC is not what Miami fans want to see. A coach going 0-3 against an emerging North Carolina team is not helping matters.
Shannon's team survived a brutal September against four straight ranked opponents going 3-1 but faltered late. If he wants to avoid a similar stumble, Harris must gain consistency.
He also will have to avoid negative plays, the Hurricanes gave up the third most sacks in the ACC. Sometimes, discretion is the better part of valor.
Shannon still has something to prove to the Miami fans and the Coastal will be a tough division.
Unless Harris continues to develop, this could be another ugly off-season of discontent for Shannon and Miami.
Considering the patience Maryland fans have shown in the past, it seems almost impossible that the Fridge will be canned midway through the season.
However, it seems just as unlikely that he will be around in 2011.
Yes, I know Maryland fans, Da'Rel Scott is back and healthy. The senior running back is talented and will be expected to fill the offensive void left by graduating quarterback Chris Turner.
Maryland also has one of the best linebacking corps in the ACC.
Still, the Terrapins finished the 2009 season with the worst scoring defense in the conference and the second worst scoring offense.
Close losses or not, the numbers were staggeringly bad.
Will Maryland be better? Of course they will. I am just not convinced yet that the Terrapins are mature enough yet to translate their experience into wins.
The Terrapins have a really tough road schedule with games at West Virginia, Clemson, Boston College, Miami and Virginia.
Those teams combined to go 24-8 at home last year.
I hope Friedgen the best but I think it's time for the Terrapins to turn the page. Two winning seasons in six years does not bar well for future success.
It's certainly a trendy pick.
North Carolina is loaded with talent, there is no doubt of that.
Quarterback T.J. Yates had a terrible junior season but injuries devastated his offensive line and a nice running back tandem can relieve some pressure for him this year.
In truth, North Carolina has a great ACC-SEC match showdown. While other ACC teams have gotten plastered in this opening week game, North Carolina will have the best chance of any of its predecessors.
The Tigers of Louisiana State can be reckless and their quarterback Jordan Jefferson is unreliable at times. If North Carolina were to take that game, it could give them momentum to carry throughout the season.
Still, as I have said many times now. The Tar Heels never pass the eye test with me. They have yet to live up to their talent.
I know you can make excuses for past performances but this team still has something to prove to everyone.
This team has still yet to have a winning streak longer than four games under Davis. In the past two years he has had two losses to teams that finished under .500.
With Virginia Tech's dominance of the Coastal division, mixed with a Georgia Tech team that added a defensive coordinator who never lost to Davis as head coach of the Cavaliers and a Miami team with one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, winning will not be easy.
Can they do it? Yes.
Do I think they will? Not yet.
Well, at least I'm not completely mean to North Carolina.
To me this was a close call between the Clemson Tigers and the Tar Heels. It could really be a coin flip but I give the edge to Carolina.
Their front seven is amazing and one reason why they had the best total defense in the ACC, sixth in the country last year.
Robert Quinn anchors a punishing defensive line that can stuff the run but will need some help pressuring the quarterback.
The Carolina secondary will make or break the team in 2010. It will not be enough to simply avoid the big play, they must make plays themselves. Creating a few turnovers can win games, particularly those decisions which have not gone the way of Carolina in the past.
That will be the difference between a year of glory and a year of regrets.
Bobby Bowden is the last coach to do it.
He will keep that mark for one more year.
Even with the prestigious non-conference games the ACC has set up to earn respectability, we all know the way the wind blows.
No one is going to give a one-loss ACC team the edge over a similar record team in the Big XII or SEC. The only way the ACC can breakthrough is to go undefeated.
When you look at the schedule, I just don't see how that could happen.
The best overall team in 2010 should be the Hokies but they are vulnerable. With a very young defensive line and a tough opener against Boise State, an undefeated mark would be difficult.
I predict an 11-1 finish for the boys from Blacksburg, although to me the loss will come at Miami.
The other teams just have too many question marks.
Does Florida State have a defense? Does Georgia Tech have enough play-makers? Does Clemson have the leadership to stay undefeated?
The ACC will have a good year and earn some big non-conference victories, but a national championship is not in the picture.
It's time to party like it's 2005.
We all know the statistic. Ever since the expansion whoever has won the Virginia Tech/Georgia Tech game has gone to win the Coastal Division.
Well even though North Carolina and Miami should be more of a factor, this trend will most likely hold true.
Since the game is at Lane Stadium, give the edge to the Hokies. After all, they have only lost five games at home since joining the ACC.
The Atlantic Division will come down to Florida State and Clemson. Even though I have the Tigers with a better overall record, the Seminoles will have a better conference record which will put them into the ACC Championship game.
Obviously for this to happen Florida State will need their third worst scoring defense to improve. The influx of talent, the improved running game by Jermaine Thomas to control the clock and Ponder's accuracy should all help that statistic.
As for the winner, well that'll be answered for another time.
Marc Verica went from hero to goat rather quickly in Charlottesville.
The quarterback began 2008 fourth on the depth chart. He ended it as a starter that helped lead the Cavaliers in back-to-back victories over a ranked North Carolina and Georgia Tech team.
Verica had moments of brilliance, possessing a touch that his predecessor Jameel Sewell could never find.
However, he had far too many interceptions. In fact, he had twice as many interceptions as he had touchdowns.
Still, he appeared to be improving.
Then 2009 came around, his lack of playing time came to a head when he was thrown in a game late when Sewell was injured.
Verica panicked. He looked like he had never been on the gridiron before and almost refused to look farther than five yards down the field.
Now he is expected to be the center of an offense that ranked dead last in 2009.
If Virginia is going to do anything next season, they will need Verica to find the confidence he played with in 2008. Sure he made mistakes but he also moved the ball like few of his contemporaries ever have.
A new regime could bring a new hope, but quarterbacks are peculiar beings.
I think Verica will improve. The increased role should bring confidence and a variety of wide receivers should help him find targets.
However, Virginia fans should be weary of expecting too much from the signal-caller. His role needs to be limited because relying on him opens up the costly interception.
The Cavaliers will eventually build around a quarterback, just not this one.
He may not be at Virginia anymore but Groh is still in the ACC.
The nine-year coach of the Cavaliers is now defensive coordinator for the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
The buzz worthy move leaves one fundamental question: Is this the last piece of the puzzle or a potential powder keg waiting to explode?
On one hand, Groh has proven a great ability to develop a defensive game plan. At Virginia, Groh provided a blueprint to stop big name wide receivers like Pittsburgh's Larry Fitzgerald, Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree and Georgia Tech's own Calvin Johnson.
Groh is a master of the Xs and Os and even though he failed to win enough games, he did produce some quality NFL players.
However, despite his defensive intellect, his defenses were never quite as good as statistics may have shown.
The 3-4 scheme is a rare on in football and one that will take time for Georgia Tech to adjust towards. With the loss of defensive end Derrick Morgan, Groh will need to develop new leaders.
He will also have to live down the fact that his Virginia team was ranked 8th in total scoring defense the past two seasons for the ACC.
This hire will actually work out well for Georgia Tech. Limiting Groh's role to his expertise will make the Yellow Jacket defense much better. His knowledge of the opponents will also translate into success.
However, it will take time to transition and so next year's defense will probably have some major ups and downs.
In 2011 though, the Georgia Tech defense could be making as many waves as its offense.
Suffice it to say that Da'Rel Scott would like to forget about last season.
The rising senior tailback was hampered by injuries and could only watch from the sidelines as his Terrapins went 2-10.
Considering that last year was the year of the running back in the ACC, people are already predicting Scott to be one of the rushing leaders in 2010.
Scott had an 1,133-yard season in 2008 and he believes he can do it again.
Unfortunately, it's not going to happen.
Now Scott will obviously rebound, but I am adamantly saying here and now that he will not run for 1,000 yards next season.
First off, Scott will not be getting enough carries to lead the ACC standings.
His successor, Davin Meggett, split time with Scott and reached the endzone seven times last season. Furthermore, he averaged nearly 15 yards per reception, showing a versatility that will put him on the field.
Quarterback Jamarr Robinson is still developing and will result to scrambling and running when under pressure. In other words, rushing yards will be racked up by many players next season.
Besides, until Robinson can prove he can stretch the field, teams will stack the box and deny running backs a chance to rack up big yards.
Scott's health will be closely monitored and, considering what happened in 2009, will probably be limited to a number of carries.
Will he improve his numbers? Yes.
Will he disappoint Terrapin fans who expect big numbers? Yes.
We all know that if Florida State fails to live up to expectations next season, it won't be because of the offense.
In 2009, the Seminoles were ranked second in total offense, averaging just one yard fewer than first place Georgia Tech. I think I would still take 421 yards a game whenever I could.
I have already waxed poetic about quarterback Christian Ponder so I will spare you.
How about Jermaine Thomas at running back?
His 832 yards last season really helped keep the offense moving and is the fourth leading rusher returning to the ACC after last season.
When you consider the talent upgrades to a unit that was already ranked third in passing and fourth in rushing, what's not to like?
Don't forget about the competition either.
Georgia Tech has some major losses on offense to recover from and Clemson has a quarterback missing nearly all of spring practice to play baseball with a dynamic offensive weapon off playing in Buffalo.
Florida State will have to put up points to win next season and you better believe they will do just that.
So Tyrod Taylor is not your stereotypical quarterback.
However, he has helped do what every great leader does, win.
Taylor may not be the best passer, he may not have Michael Vick-type athleticism, but his senior season gives him an opportunity to finish as the second best quarterback in school history.
With a season to go, Taylor is fifth in school history in total offense, eighth in passing. Most importantly, he is 23-5 as a starter and has two ACC titles to his credit.
The man has improved each and every season. In 2008, he had only two passing touchdowns all season compared to seven interceptions.
How did he respond? He became the most efficient quarterback in the ACC.
Now his arm is still not spectacular but it is respectable. If he can make defenses guess, he makes the Virginia Tech offense far more intimidating to opponents.
Taylor may not be doing it alone, but he could leave Virginia Tech with three ACC titles, a school record for total offense and two BCS victories.
You could make the argument.
This is perhaps the biggest question entering 2010 next season in my mind.
We all know that Ryan Williams is talented, the freshman phenom had 1,655 yards and 21 touchdowns.
We also know that Darren Evans was the player whose freshman records Williams broke. 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns is no small feat and a 253-yard performance against Maryland tied a school record.
However, what we don't know is how these two are going to co-exist together? Can they both get carries and maintain a good rhythm to keep the offense moving in 2010?
Even in spring practice, Williams had a bruised knee and sat out. These two have never been healthy at the same time and they do not want to wait until September for this to occur.
Williams will need to be first on the depth chart and use Evans periodically throughout the game. Without a set pecking order, chaos may ensue.
Now will Evans handle this well? As long as they keep winning.
However, if the Hokies drop an unexpected game or two, there could be some grumbling.
Talent is a great gift, but it comes with challenges. Virginia Tech needs to be careful with this delicate situation, competition pushes players but it can also breed discontent.
If I asked you to reel off quarterbacks in the ACC, it would take awhile before you got to Dave Shinskie.
The 25-year old freshman took his lumps in 2009 while riding the legs of running back star Montel Harris.
Boston College was expected to be an afterthought given the coaching turmoil and relative inexperience heading into last season. Instead they finished 8-5, 5-3 in the ACC.
Now with a year under his belt, coach Frank Spaziani and the Eagles want to make a return trip to the ACC Championship game. However, it will not happen with an offense ranked 9th in the 12-team ACC.
Only Josh Nesbitt averaged fewer passing yards per game than Shinskie last season, something that must be improved if the Eagles are to make some nose in 2010.
Shinskie's completion percentage was just over 50% and his 15 touchdown to 14 interception ratio are two red flags.
Shinskie did improve as the season went on, he threw for over 200 yards in four of his final six games of the season. However, he also threw 10 interceptions in that same stretch.
Expect Shinskie to become more and more familiar with tight end Chris Pantale. The safety blanket could help keep defenses guessing and the offense moving.
However, the running game will still be the focus of the Eagle offense. If Shinskie manages the game, Boston College will be just fine.
He is one of the most talked about coaches in the ACC.
Cutcliffe is one of those names that people do not expect to stay at Duke long.
Job offers have been bubbling around, but will those suitors still be calling if Duke struggles this year?
Let's face it, Duke's success last season revolved completely around the arm of quarterback Thaddeus Lewis. The defense was porous, the running game was non-existent and the record was still a losing one.
Now without Lewis, Cutcliffe has the difficult task of completely transforming the offense.
Without a stellar defense to shut down opponents and without a proven quarterback, how does Duke expect to win games?
Trendy pick the past few seasons, the Blue Devils will have a rough go of it in 2010. Will that adversity dwindle the stock of Cutcliffe?
We all know that Cutcliffe got a raw deal at Ole Miss and that his track record is good. It's hard to be noticed at Duke, it's even harder to win.
Will Cutcliffe regret not making at the end of last season? It wouldn't surprise me.
It's the buzz worthy topic of the off-season.
If the Big Ten makes a big move and creates a super conference, the ACC will quickly respond.
This super conference theory may be just that, but I'm sure the commissioner John Swofford must be thinking of potential candidates to add to the conference.
The ACC has poached Big East schools before and you can bet that they will be fighting the Big Ten for the leftovers in the northeast if this football Darwinism were to take over.
West Virginia would be a likely candidate, they already have natural rivalries with the Hokies and the Terrapins. They could build one with the Cavaliers.
Now the Mountaineers in the ACC would ruffle the feather of some of the bluebloods in the conference but doesn't that make it even more of a fun idea?
South Carolina would be another natural pick if the ACC could bring back the former colleague away from the SEC.
Any other natural selections?
It's definitely a plan that the ACC must keep in the back of their collective minds.
How much of Georgia Tech's success has been based on the talent and how much has been based on the system?
Clearly Jonathan Dwyer knew how to rack up yardage. Now the pressure will be on his heir apparent to take some of the pressure off senior quarterback Josh Nesbitt.
Allen rushed for 618 yards last year on just 64 attempts in the B back role of Tech's spread option offense. Now that he's been bumped up a rung, can he build on that success?
You would have to think so.
Allen carried the load in the spring game with Nesbitt out and rushed for 91 yards in the first half. His versatility, his speed and his endurance all make him a capable replacement.
However, the most important thing going for him is necessity. Nesbitt needs a safety valve and with every team game-planning around him Allen will need to be able to catch and carry the ball to glory.
Otherwise, Georgia Tech will have a very rough season.
Both Tom O'Brien and Jim Grobe were two of the top coaches in the ACC not that long ago.
However, both have fallen on hard times.
O'Brien left a cushy job at Boston College to struggle mightily with the Wolfpack of N.C. State. After an ACC title for Grobe, the Demon Deacons have fallen back and will most likely finish last in the division this year.
So who has a better chance of turning things around for their program?
In the short term you would have to say O'Brien. He has a star at quarterback with Russell Wilson and a solid receiving corps. Although he has questions at both defensive and offensive line, we know his team is going to put up points.
Wake Forest on the other hand has no proven quarterback and a mediocre defense. A recipe for disaster in the ACC.
Yet, Grobe still has good will with the Demon Deacon fans and will have time to turn it around. O'Brien may not get another season if his Wolfpack fail to capture a winning season in 2010.
I'm going to go with O'Brien because he has the talent to succeed. However, failure to live up to that talent may cost him a chance to prove me right.
For the Clemson Tigers, the 2010 offense will have a new shift in focus.
After a superb freshman campaign, the pressure will be on quarterback Kyle Parker to carry the load. Without star receiver, Jacory Ford that task becomes even taller.
Fortunately for Parker, he has Andre Ellington.
The rising sophomore may have been overshadowed by his predecessor, but it is hard to ignore a 7.2 yards per carry average.
Ellington certainly had the help of Parker's presence to boost up his production but his speed and elusiveness give hope to Tiger fans throughout the land.
Ellington's partner in crime is Jamie Harper, another emerging player who could split time in the backfield.
While neither may reach the Heisman consideration that Spiller had, both showed glimpses of brilliance and may find consistency with more carries.
Don't be surprised to see Ellington turn more than a few heads next season, as long as he can stay healthy.
The Miami spring game was certainly not a pretty sight.
That happens when both your starting quarterback and running back are sitting on the sidelines.
Harris had thumb surgery this off-season and although things appear to be on schedule, it will still be another month before he can begin throwing again.
Does that mean he will be ready come August? Most likely.
Does that mean everything is okay in Coral Gables? No.
Offensive coordinator Mark Whipple helped whip the Hurricanes into shape but Harris still needs time to groom his craft. We know he can whip the ball but he needs practice reading defenses and making better decisions.
Sure he can do some of that in a chair with game tape but these practices could really help further his development.
What would also further his development is a healthy running back who is currently nursing an ACL injury.
Now Damien Berry is a capable replacement but Graig Cooper's speed was a big factor in his 695 yards last season. Even if he returns in 2010, we simply do not know how explosive he will be.
Cooper and Harris are two dynamic players currently on the shelf. For a ravenous fan-base and a less than beloved coach, this is a scary proposition.
Despite over 20 touchdowns and 2500 yards passing, the debate is on as to whether Parker will take the money and run to the major leagues or continue to develop in football.
Parker has balanced the two demanding schedules brilliantly, but you have to believe the wear and tear both physically and mentally is exhausting.
Will he want to go through it for one more year?
My guess is yes. If Clemson won the College World Series or something it would be a different story but I think he wants to roll the dice on collegiate glory.
Even without Spiller, Parker has to believe that his Tigers can compete for an Atlantic Division title. Being so close to a BCS berth must be frustrating.
Still, until the decision is final, Clemson fans will be squirming a bit.