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ACC CONFERENCE PREVIEW

The ACC seems to be much stronger than it was just a year ago.  Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Florida State are coming off big bowl wins, while Miami and North Carolina are coming off probation.  Pitt and Syracuse join the conference, and Notre Dame and Louisville are waiting in the wings.   Here are a few things we are looking forward to this year:

A DIFFERENT BOWL SEASON – With two of its better teams ineligible for post season play last year, the ACC sent only six teams to bowl games.  That included a 6-7 Georgia Tech team and Duke and Virginia Tech at 6-6.  Games like the Russell Athletic Bowl which would typically get a 9-3 team instead got a 6-6 Virginia Tech.  This year, we think the ACC will send at least 10 teams to bowl games, including two that receive will BCS bids.

WHICH TEAM WILL SURPRISENORTH CAROLINA  Last year, in head coach Larry Fedora’s first season, the Tar Heels were 8-4, even though they were on probation and banned from post-season play.  Most of the team is back, more experienced and has something to play for.  They’ll be favored their last six games and get Miami at home on Thursday night before that.

WHICH TEAM WILL SURPRISE IIFLORIDA STATE  Even though the Seminoles had more players drafted than any other team, this year’s squad could be even better than last year’s Orange Bowl team.  If they can survive road games at No. 8 Clemson, and No.10 Florida, the Seminoles will be a BCS Championship contender.

WHICH TEAM WILL SURPRISE IIINORTH CAROLINA STATE – Dave Doeren comes in from Northern Illinois and takes over a team that is expected to finish about 6-6.  In his two seasons at Northern Illinois, he won two conference championships, lost one conference game, and got Northern Illinois the first BCS bid for a MAC school ever.  Look for the Wolfpack and Doeren to exceed expectations right out the gate.

 HOW THEY’LL FINISH                WHERE THEY’RE HEADING

ATLANTIC

1)      Clemson 11-1                    Returning to the Orange Bowl, maybe more

2)      Florida State 11-1             A BCS at-large selection, and maybe more

3)      N.C. State 8-4                    Home-cooking in Charlotte

4)      Maryland 7-5                    Nashville calling

5)      Wake Forest 6-6               Heading to the West Coast

6)      Syracuse 4-8

7)      Boston College 3-9

COASTAL

1)      Virginia Tech 10-2             Another legendary coach visits El Paso

2)      Miami 10-2                        A date with the SEC in Atlanta

3)      North Carolina 10-2         Orlando bound

4)      Georgia Tech 6-6              Shreveport and the SEC

5)      Pittsburgh 6-6                   The Military Bowl and a trip to the Capitol

6)      Virginia 3-9

7)      Duke 3-9

BIGGEST GAMES

August 29            North Carolina at South Carolina   

Larry Fedora’s offense will challenge the Gamecocks

August 31            Georgia at Clemson

The winner enters the BCS Championship discussion

September 7      Florida at Miami

A huge in-state rivalry with a lot of great history

October 5            North Carolina at Virginia Tech

Whichever team wins here will go on to win the division

October 17          Miami at North Carolina

A tough Thursday night road-trip for the Canes

October 19          Florida State at Clemson

The winner wins the division, and maybe much more

November 2       Miami at Florida State

Rivals with a lot on the line in the conference and BCS

November 9       Virginia Tech at Miami

Huge game in the division and for bowl positioning

November 30    Florida State at Florida

                           Clemson at South Carolina

In-state rivals, the winners could be BCS bound

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