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THE ACC

8/14/2008
ESPN The Magazine design

The ACC hasn't won a BCS bowl in nine years. Mark it down for a 10th. Short answer: lots of great players, no great teams. Take Clemson—the Tigers have the nation's best backfield in James Davis and C.J. Spiller, but they're not BCS title material. Wake has CB Alphonso Smith (14 career picks) but is otherwise mediocre. The real reason the ACC has struggled is that Miami and Florida State aren't the 10-win locks of five years ago. Both teams have some seriously gifted players, like FSU safety Myron Rolle and Miami RB Javarris James. But neither has the depth it's had in the past. That's true of the entire conference.
- LOU HOLTZ

THE ELIMINATOR

We found four key single-season benchmarks reached by the past five ACC champs. And, after looking at returning players and last year's stats, we've predicted which team will pass those same tests in 2008.

THE QUARTERBACK SUCCESS INDICATOR

Seven of the 12 ACC teams will have last year's starting quarterback under center again this season. Given their numbers from 2007—and the amount of help they have around them—here's our take on which passers have the best chances to succeed this season. The bigger their diamonds, the more likely they'll shine.

THE LEAGUE OF STALLED DRIVES

Last year the ACC's TD-to-FG ratio was the lowest among BCS conferences. The ACC's worst offender? FSU, which had 32 TDs and 27 FGs, just a 1.19:1 ratio. Here's a league-by-league look.

TEAM BY TEAM

1. CLEMSON
Returns ACC's top QB (Cullen Harper), WR (Aaron Kelly) and RB (James Davis). Try to beat that! No, seriously. Try it.

2. VIRGINIA TECH
QB Sean Glennon could be all-ACC. So could backup Tyrod Taylor.

3. WAKE FOREST
Good news: CB Alphonso Smith had more picks (eight) than GaTech (five). Bad news: QB Riley Skinner threw more (13) than five ACC teams.

4. FLORIDA STATE
Just 1—7 recently against Wake, VaTech, Clemson and BC . At least the Noles get all four at home.

5. BOSTON COLLEGE
LB/FB Brian Toal could lead BC in tackles and TDs. But only because Eagles return a total of just 28 yards passing and six yards rushing.

6. MIAMI
Even with RB Javarris James, the Canes should extend their longest unranked streak since 1979—23 polls and counting.

7. NORTH CAROLINA
Wow! Heels return their top eight rushers. Whoa! None gained more than 400 yards.

8. NORTH CAROLINA STATE
QBs Daniel Evans and Harrison Beck contributed to an ACC-worst 23 picks. Time to turn the ball over to hotshot freshman Mike Glennon.

9. VIRGINIA
Built 2007 offense around sophomore QB Jameel Sewell—then suspended him (academics) for 2008.

10. GEORGIA TECH
New coach Paul Johnson loves to run the option. And with 16 total completions on his roster, Johnson may not have any other, um, option.

11. MARYLAND
Best player on offense: Florida transfer QB Josh Portis. Best on D: ex-USC safety Antwine Perez. Best chance to win: more transfers.

12. DUKE
With QB guru David Cutcliffe on the headset, Duke could win as many ACC games as it has in the past three years: two.