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ACC overview

Once again, who will finish second?

By Tim Peeler, Special to CNNSI.com

Chris Weinke The return of QB Chris Weinke helps make FSU the consensus favorite. Scott Halleran/Allsport

Projected Order of Finish
1. Florida State
2. Clemson
3. Virginia
4. Georgia Tech
5. North Carolina
6. N.C. State
7. Maryland
8. Wake Forest
9. Duke

Top Storylines
Here's a news flash: Florida State will be the best team in the ACC this year, as it has been every season since joining the league in 1992. The question is, as it is every year in this major-conference wannabe, who will be second?

Unlike the last four years when North Carolina and Georgia Tech made claims for an at-large berth into one of the alliance or BCS bowl games, the ACC doesn't have a team that will make much noise nationally. Clemson is the odds-on favorite to finish second because of a favorable schedule and significant improvement in its second year under Tommy Bowden, but the Tigers are still a long way from cracking the Top 10. Virginia should win seven games for the 13th consecutive season and Georgia Tech won't be bad, but they are going to have to answer some major questions in a hurry if they want to join FSU among the nation's elite.

Maryland is a myth, North Carolina needs an offense to go with its defense and N.C. State just doesn't yet have the tools to do what new coach Chuck Amato wants to do. If any of the three distinguishes itself, it will be at the expense of the other two.

Where They'll Be for the Holidays
BCS Blessed Dot-Com Doomed Confined to Couch
Florida State
Clemson
Virginia
Georgia Tech
North Carolina
Maryland
N.C. State
Duke
Wake Forest

Best of All Worlds
Quarterback
Florida State
Chris Weinke
Running Back
Maryland
LaMont Jordan, Chris Kalapinski
Ends
Georgia Tech
Kelly Campbell, Jon Muyres, Kerry Watkins, Russell Matvay
Offensive Line
Florida State
Brett Williams, Tarlos Thomas, Jarad Moon, Justin Amman, Jerry Carmichael
Defensive Line
Florida State
Jamal Reynolds, Tony Benford, Chris Woods, David Warren, Roland Seymour
Linebackers
North Carolina
Brandon Spoon, Merceda Perry and Sedrick Hodge
Secondary
Clemson
Robert Carswell, Alex Ardley, Brian Mance, Charles Hafley
Special Teams
Georgia Tech
Luke Manget, Dan Dyke
Coaching
Florida State
Head coach Bobby Bowden, assistants Mickey Andrews, Mark Richt, Joe Kines, Jeff Bowden

Status Report
Set to Go Skygliding
Clemson
You gotta love having seven home games, especially when four of them are against The Citadel, Missouri, Wake Forest and Maryland.

Set to Go Cliffdiving
Georgia Tech
We know this because the Yellow Jackets, at one time in the top five nationally, began their free fall by losing three of their last five games last year, even before losing Joe Hamilton.

About to Step Up
Woodrow Dantzler, QB, Clemson
He was an effective part-timer last year behind Brandon Streeter, but this year Bowden's pass-heavy offense will belong to Dantzler. He will have several talented targets, led by senior wideout Rod Gardner.
Hasn't Stepped Up Yet
Ronald Curry, QB, North Carolina
For all the hype, Curry enters his junior season with more lows than highs so far in his injury-riddled career.

Schedules
Brutal Schedule
Georgia Tech
Why on earth did George O'Leary, without a quarterback worthy of confidence, agree to travel to Blacksburg, Va., for a 12th game against Michael Vick and Virginia Tech? This in addition to the Georgia grudge match at the end.
Breather Schedule
Three-way tie ...
... for three mediocre teams trying to schedule their way into the postseason: North Carolina (Tulsa, Marshall and Pittsburgh), Maryland (Temple, West Virginia and Middle Tennessee State) and N.C. State (Arkansas State, Indiana and Southern Methodist). Marshall is the only one of these opponents that had a winning record last year.

Mark Your Calendar
Florida State at Miami, Oct. 7
If the Seminoles are going to repeat as national champions, this road game will be their biggest obstacle, since the Hurricanes are blowing at full strength once again.
N.C. State at North Carolina, Oct. 14
When North Carolina stopped N.C. State on the goal line in the waning seconds last year, it pretty much cost Mike O'Cain his job as the Wolfpack's head coach and helped save Carl Torbush's at UNC. Now, O'Cain is Torbush's offensive coordinator.
Clemson at Florida State, Nov. 4
Tiger fans are expecting Clemson to be 9-0 going to Tallahassee for Bowden Bowl II. It might actually give ACC fans something to talk about in November besides which team will get that coveted spot in the Micron PC Bowl.

Tim Peeler covers the ACC for the Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record and will write a weekly CNNSI.com conference insider this season.


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