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Where they'll finish

Ranked in order of predicted finish

ACC football preview

Atlantic Division

1. Clemson

2007 record: 9-4 (5-3, tied for second in the division).

Coach: Tommy Bowden (69-42, 10th season; 87-46 overall).

Will make it to Tampa if … QB Cullen Harper, RBs James Davis and C.J. Spiller and WRs Aaron Kelly, Tyler Grisham and Jacoby Ford can put up video game-like numbers again, even with a retooled OL blocking for them.

2. Wake Forest

2007 record: 9-4 (5-3, tied for second in the division).

Coach: Jim Grobe (46-39, eighth season; 79-72-1 overall).

Will defy the pundits, again, if … Rivals continue to underrate a team that has steadily increased its speed and athleticism and has simply been one of the best prepared in the nation under Grobe.

3. Florida State

2007 record: 7-6 (4-4, fourth in the division).

Coach: Bobby Bowden (300-87-4, 33rd season; 373-119-4 overall).

Will improve on consecutive 7-6 seasons if … QB Drew Weatherford (or Christian Ponder) and RB Antone Smith produce points despite an OL of freshmen and sophomores, and the defense regains dominance.

4. Boston College

2007 record: 11-3 (6-2, first in division).

Coach: Jeff Jagodzinski (11-3, second season).

Will defend Atlantic title if … QB Chris Crane, who was 17 of 26 for 142 yards and a TD and two rushing TDs in his lone start against Buffalo, can ease the loss of Matt Ryan, the 2007 ACC player of the year and No. 3 overall pick in the NFL draft.

5. Maryland

2007 record: 6-7 (3-5, tied for fifth in the division).

Coach: Ralph Friedgen (56-31, eighth season).

Will avoid hometown Congressional Bowl if … A veteran offense (nine starters back and new QB James Franklin) can find the potency it showed in wins against then-top 10 teams Rutgers and Boston College.

6. North Carolina State

2007 record: 5-7 (3-5, tied for fifth in the division).

Coach: Tom O'Brien (5-7, second season; 75-45 overall).

Will be bowl eligible if … The Wolfpack can pound away with RBs Andre Brown and Toney Baker, both of whom missed most of last season, and Jamelle Eugene to take pressure off an inexperienced defense.

Coastal Division

1. North Carolina

2007 record: 4-8 (3-5, fourth in the division).

Coach: Butch Davis (4-8, second season; 55-28 overall).

Will make it to Tampa if … A talented and young, but seasoned group (18 starters back) can win more of the close games; the Tar Heels were 3-6 in games decided by a touchdown or less last year.

2. Virginia Tech

2007 record: 11-3 (7-1, first in division, ACC champion).

Coach: Frank Beamer (167-85-2, 22nd season; 209-108-4 overall).

Will again make it to ACC finale if … Beamer finds how to juggle QBs Sean Glennon and Tyrod Taylor, finds a breakaway RB, finds a big-play WR and finds a way to rebuild defensively around CB Macho Harris and DE Orion Martin.

3. Miami

2007 record: 5-7 (2-6, fifth in the division).

Coach: Randy Shannon (5-7, second season).

Will make it to a bowl if … QBs Robert Marve (redshirt freshman from Plant) and/or Jacory Harris (a freshman who enrolled in January) lead the offense on and off the field, and the defense doesn't wilt late in games.

4. Virginia

2007 record: 9-4 (6-2, second in the division).

Coach: Al Groh (51-37, eighth season; 77-77 overall).

Will go bowling again if … A defense that lost DE Chris Long can make enough plays while the offense led by a neophyte QB (Peter Lalich or Scott Deke) gains confidence.

5. Georgia Tech

2007 record: 7-6 (4-4, third in the division).

Coach: Paul Johnson (first season; 45-29 overall).

Will be the ACC's surprise if … An inexperienced offense (just four starters back) can adapt quickly and seamlessly to Johnson's triple option attack that worked so well at I-AA Georgia Southern and then Navy.

6. Duke

2007 record: 1-11 (0-8, sixth in the division).

Coach: David Cutcliffe (first season; 44-29 overall).

Will win an ACC game if … The Blue Devils, who have lost 25 straight league games, take advantage of a veteran defense and Cutcliffe is right in comparing QB Thaddeus Lewis to former Tennessee pupil Tee Martin.

Brian Landman, Times staff writer

ACC football preview 08/27/08 [Last modified: Thursday, August 28, 2008 2:22pm]
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