No teams worthy of the national top 10 and Virginia Tech facing Florida State in the league championship game in Charlotte.
1. Florida State: The Seminoles return the core of the squad that defeated South Carolina in the Chick-fil-A Bowl to earn a No. 17 Associated Press ranking. E.J. Manuel from Virginia Beach appears poised to succeed Christian Ponder at quarterback, and he'll be surrounded by proven talents such as tailback Chris Thompson. Then there's the schedule. Florida State plays top division threats Maryland and North Carolina State at home, and its crossover opponents include lightweights Duke and Virginia.
2. N.C. State: The Wolfpack cracked the final AP poll (24th) for the second time in 15 years and started only six seniors in its bowl victory over West Virginia. But if junior quarterback Russell Wilson opts for full-time baseball, is Mike Glennon ready for prime time? The brother of former Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon, he's not nearly as tested as FSU's Manuel.
3. Maryland: New coach Randy Edsall inherits a team that was ranked No. 23 and returns the ACC Rookie of the Year at quarterback, Danny O'Brien. Not bad work if you can get it. But coaching transitions take time, and the Terps' most explosive talent, receiver/returner Torrey Smith, bailed early for the NFL. Maryland, by the way, is the first ACC school to ever fire a football coach ( Ralph Friedgen) after a top-25 season for reasons other than NCAA violations.
4. Boston College: It's a coin flip here between BC and Clemson, the ACC's best defenses of 2010. I lean toward the Eagles based on returning talent, (running back Montel Harris and linebacker Luke Kuechly), schedule (their crossover opponents appear more manageable) and end-of-season performance (BC won its final five regular-season games).
5. Clemson: Embattled big whistle Dabo Swinney booted offensive coordinator Billy Napier after a bowl loss to South Florida left the Tigers with a 6-7 record. Clemson extended eventual national champion Auburn to overtime in September but then underachieved, as usual. Phoebus graduate Tajh Boyd is the heir apparent at quarterback and many of his fellow starters will be equally inexperienced.
6. Wake Forest: Hard to pick the Deacons elsewhere until they upgrade an historically bad defense. Opponents averaged 35.8 points last season, the most Wake has allowed in 58 years of ACC membership.
1. Virginia Tech: With all-conference quarterback Tyrod Taylor graduating and tailbacks Darren Evans and Ryan Williams turning pro, the Hokies certainly aren't a clear fave. But tailback David Wilson, a deep group of receivers and experienced offensive line should ease the burdens on new quarterback Logan Thomas. Plus, the defense ought to have learned from the Orange Bowl humiliation.
2. Miami: Attitude, not talent, is the issue here. Hence the coaching change from Randy Shannon to Al Golden. The Hurricanes closed with a three-game losing streak for the third time in four years, and Golden must choose between skittish Jacory Harris and untested Stephen Morris at quarterback.
3. North Carolina: The only Coastal team to win its bowl, if you consider beating a 6-6 Tennessee squad notable. But the Tar Heels must replace quarterback T.J. Yates, three offensive linemen and five defensive starters. Also, their ACC road schedule -- Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Clemson and N.C. State -- is difficult.
4. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets' first losing season (6-7) since 1996 can be atrributed, in large measure, to the broken arm quarterback Josh Nesbitt sustained against Virginia Tech. Backup Tevin Washington showed flashes and figures to become the starter in 2011. Another question: Will coordinator Al Groh's 3-4 defense be more effective than in its 2010 debut?
5. Duke: The Blue Devils declined to 3-9 in 2010 but with nine returning starters on offense, they should be better next season. That group includes quarterback Sean Renfree (260.9 yards passing per game) and Conner Vernon and Donovan Varner, the ACC's Nos. 1 and 4 receivers.
6. Virginia: Mike London and his staff are recruiting well, but those prospects aren't ready. The Cavaliers are unsettled at quarterback, have lost three straight to Duke and are saddled with the division's toughest crossover games: at Florida State and Maryland, and home against N.C. State.
The picks sound reasonable? Certifiable?
Feel free to mock or applaud.