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Tuesday, July 9, 2013
ACC Football Kickoff countdown: No. 9

By Heather Dinich

We’ve got less than two weeks until our planes take off for Greensboro, N.C., the site of this year’s ACC Football Kickoff, where members of the media meet with players and coaches for two days of interviews. In order to help us get to the unofficial start of the season, we’re counting down 10 of the most interesting storylines in the ACC this fall. We head to Chapel Hill, N.C., today for No. 9:

No. 9: Can UNC earn a real ring?

Ok, so we gave Larry Fedora some grief for buying his players ACC Coastal Division championship rings last year when his team was ineligible to win it, but you know what? Those are the kinds of things players love, and the guys in Chapel Hill are buying into the “Fed Spread.” Their up-tempo offense reflects the 100 mph pace of their head coach, and it should only be better this fall with veteran quarterback Bryn Renner returning. Only two problems: standout running back Giovani Bernard and lead blocker Jonathan Cooper have to be replaced. Those are big-time losses, and not only in the running game. Bernard will also be sorely missed in the return game. A.J. Blue is ready to become the team’s top running back, but can the Heels be as effective without their top two offensive players from 2012? And that’s just the beginning. No other team in the ACC -- besides FSU -- lost more starters than North Carolina, which has to replace 10. Defensively, UNC has to replace its top two leaders in sacks in defensive tackle Sylvester Williams and linebacker Kevin Reddick.

We know Renner is good. We think Fedora is good. But can the entire team reload on talent and be good enough this fall to earn a ring instead of buy one?

The countdown:

No. 10: Can Duke get back to a bowl game?