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Countdown to kickoff: No. 1

8/30/2012

Finally! No more waiting. The 2012 season is officially here in the ACC, as NC State will kick off against Tennessee tonight in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta. This series ends a countdown of the top 25 reasons to be excited about ACC football this year. There is no bigger reason than …

No. 1: Quarterbacks. What was once a weakness throughout the ACC should be a position of strength in 2012. There are legitimate Heisman contenders, and players who could collectively or individually raise the profile of the entire league. For the first time in conference history, the ACC had five quarterbacks top 3,000 passing yards in 2011, and all five return -- also a new high for the conference. A total of six quarterbacks return who have thrown for 3,000 or more yards in a season as Duke’s Sean Renfree threw for 3,131 yards as a sophomore in 2010.

Only Miami, which loses starter Jacory Harris, and Maryland, which lost C.J. Brown to a season-ending injury in pre-season camp, does not return its starting signal-caller. But the Hurricanes will start junior Stephen Morris (Miami) who has started five games (4 in 2010, one in 2011).

Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd played his way into the Heisman conversation a year ago after the Tigers’ 8-0 start, and he could do it again, but so could Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas and Florida State’s EJ Manuel. Don’t forget about the Tobacco Road duo of UNC starter Bryn Renner and NC State’s Mike Glennon. Wake's Tanner Price, Virginia's Michael Rocco, BC's Chase Rettig and Georgia Tech's Tevin Washington also all return. There is a wealth of talent at the position and it should be one of the best seasons in recent memory for quarterback play in the ACC.

No. 2: A national title contender

No. 3 The Discover Orange Bowl

No. 4: Labor Day

No. 5: The winningest active coach in college football

No. 6: The ACC championship game

No. 7: Florida State's defensive line

No. 8: Thursday night games

No. 9: Atlanta

No. 10: NC State's secondary

No. 11: SEC rivalry games

No. 12: Virginia Tech's 10-game winning streak

No. 13: Florida State vs. Clemson

No. 14: North Carolina vs. NC State

No. 15: Unofficial state championships

No. 16: Talented true freshmen

No. 17: Unpredictability

No. 18: ACC vs. Notre Dame

No. 19: Clemson's offensive playmakers

No. 20: The ACC's record chasers

No. 21: Larry Fedora

No. 22: One of the nation's top rushing offenses

No. 23: The last season before expansion

No. 24: Brent Venables

No. 25: A fresh start at Maryland