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Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Poll: ACC's next national title contender

By Heather Dinich

Last year was Florida State’s year. The Noles had a senior quarterback. They had one of the best defenses in the country, and they had an abundance of talent and depth at every position. They were the ACC’s best hope to win a national title in 2012.

This year, Clemson is shouldering the expectations of being one of the country’s top teams. With the return of offensive coordinator Chad Morris, quarterback Tajh Boyd, and receiver Sammy Watkins, the stars are once again aligned for another record-setting year offensively. If Clemson beats Georgia at home in its season opener this year, the Tigers will immediately legitimize their status as a national title contender.

Who’s next?

The rest of the ACC has been overshadowed by the recent success of Florida State and Clemson, but there are plenty of other teams capable of earning their way into the top 5 of the standings. Virginia Tech fell far fast last year, but the long-term success of the program far outweighs last year’s disappointment. Beamer has played for a national title before. Don’t think he can’t do it again.

In 2010, the year North Carolina was rocked by an NCAA investigation heading into the season opener against LSU, that team was talented enough to play for a national title. There’s no reason Larry Fedora can’t recruit that kind of talent to Chapel Hill again.

Miami has recruited well under Al Golden, despite the ongoing uncertainty of the NCAA investigation -- well enough to have the league’s 2012 Rookie of the Year in Duke Johnson, and well enough to put the Canes in a position to play for the ACC title in 2012 (had they been eligible). With a program as rich in history and tradition as Miami, it’s not a matter of if they’ll get back to national relevance, but when.

Nobody in the ACC is going to roll over for Florida State or Clemson. Instead, those two programs have simply raised the bar higher in the ACC, and that’s a good thing. Which program, though, will be the next to step over one of those two and into the national spotlight?

Cast your votes now.