Print and Go Back ESPN.com: ACC [Print without images]

Friday, May 22, 2009
Looking into the ACC's crystal ball

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich

It's not September yet, but there's nothing wrong with going out on a limb and making a few early predictions. Here are five things that are going to happen in the ACC this fall, according to this blogger's crystal ball:

1. Duke will beat somebody it's not supposed to. That means you, Virginia Tech, NC State, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Miami. The Blue Devils have an upset brewing this season, and while the odds of them winning seven games and going to a bowl game are a bit premature, there's enough talent on the roster to humble a few opponents.

2. Backup quarterbacks will be called upon. Nobody wants to see anyone get hurt, so let's hope that's not the case, but considering how fragile Tyrod Taylor's ankle has been, and how vulnerable Russell Wilson tends to make himself, odds are their fleet feet will run into some trouble.

3. The conference race will be as crazy, if not more unpredictable, as last season. The Coastal Division should be the better and deeper of the two divisions, but who's to say Wake Forest, Maryland and Clemson don't have that dark horse capability this fall? The Demon Deacons should be better on offense, Clemson has a ton of talent and the folks in College Park think they've got some very talented young athletes you'll get to know this fall.

4. Ten teams will qualify for bowl games. That's right, they're starting a trend. The ACC has the potential to match last year's NCAA record for bowl-eligible teams, but the key lies in the Carolinas, where NC State, UNC and Duke all have two FCS teams scheduled and need to win at least seven games to qualify. Shouldn't be a stretch for anyone except the Blue Devils, but can Virginia turn around its postseason problem?

5. Enough nonconference games will be won that the ACC's reputation will rank behind the SEC and Big 12. There are more than enough opportunities for the ACC to make a statement this fall, starting with the Virginia Tech/Alabama game on Sept. 5. Actually, start with NC State hosting South Carolina on Thursday night (Sept. 3). A 2-0 start against the SEC would get some folks talking.