Despite bowl struggles, the ACC will still have a competitive race to reach the Orange Bowl. With Florida State and Miami facing down years, the ACC has its most wide-open race in years. Can Clemson finally live up to its hype? With its talent and ability to win big games, Clemson should win the ACC and have an undefeated season. However, Tommy Bowden and his Tigers have struggled against teams they are favored to win, so they will be victim to a few upsets over the course of the season.
Winner: Wake Forest defeats Virginia Tech
Quietly Jim Grobe has turned around Wake Forest from Duke-like futility to a perennial ACC title contender. Wake returns nine starters on defense, along with leading rusher Josh Adams. Junior quarterback Riley Skinner, who started Wake's run as a freshman, also returns to a team that went 9-4 last season. The Demon Deacons should improve this season to win their second ACC title in three seasons.
Surprise: Boston College
With the loss of Matt Ryan, Boston College has been under the radar this season. The Eagles return the ACC's second-best defense along with senior linebacker Brian Toal. The success of the new starting quarterback Chris Crane and BC's tailbacks will determine whether the Eagles can make a run in the ACC.
Disappointment: Florida State and Miami
Part of the reason the ACC has a reputation as a weak conference is because of the downfall of its historically strongest programs in the ACC—Florida State and Miami. Neither team has any proven talent at quarterback and will severely struggle on offense.
Miami loses eight starters off a team that already had the ACC's worst passing offense. Due to suspensions, Florida State loses six starters for half the season to add to Bobby Bowden's problems. Overall, the ACC's teams in the state of Florida will struggle this season. This will be the first year since 1978 that both the Seminoles and the Hurricanes will miss bowl games.
Clemson vs. Wake Forest—This game will determine the Atlantic Division title and a spot in the conference championship game.
Virginia Tech vs. Virginia—The Coastal division title is on the line in this intrastate rivalry. Can Virginia's spotty front four stop Va. Techs running game?
Clemson vs. Boston College—This game is a litmus test to see if Clemson can become a BCS bowl-caliber team. Also, an upset over Clemson can carry Boston College on ACC title run.
Projected ACC standings
1) Wake Forest 10-2 (6-2) Orange Bowl
2) Clemson 10-2 (6-2)
3) Boston College 8-4 (4-4)
4) Maryland 8-4 (4-4)
5) Florida State 5-7 (3-5)
6) NC State 4-8 (2-6)
1) Virginia Tech 10-2 (7-1)
2) Virginia 9-3 (6-2)
3) UNC 6-6 (4-4)
4) Georgia Tech 5-7 (3-5)
5) Miami 4-8 (2-6)
6) Duke 2-10 (0-8)