(Teams listed in predicted order of finish; Maryland is picked seventh)
Coach: Bobby Bowden (18 years, 166-46-3; 28 years overall, 239-78-3)
Strengths: All-America LB Derrick Brooks and DE Derrick Alexander lead a defense that only Maryland solved in the conference last year. Sophomore RB Warrick Dunn averaged 7.5 yards a carry.
Weaknesses: Loss of Heisman Trophy winner Charlie Ward, but junior Danny Kanell threw for 341 yards and five TDs in his only 1993 start, at Maryland.
Prediction: Florida State will brush aside the off-season turmoil that detracted from its first national title and better Maryland's record for consecutive ACC wins.
Coach: Mack Brown (six years, 34-34-1; 18-25-1, 10 years overall, 41-59-1)
Last year: 6-2 in ACC; 10-3 overall (lost to Alabama, 24-10, in Peach Bowl, ranked No. 21 by AP and No. 19 by USA Today)
Strengths: The Tar Heels have the most accomplished backfield in the ACC. TBs Curtis Johnson and Leon Johnson both rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season and QB Jason Stanicek is within reach of every school passing record.
Weaknesses: The defense lost eight starters and the offense six.
Prediction: No one in the program has experienced a losing season, and the Tar Heels are headed to a third straight bowl game.
Coach: Tommy West (one year, 1-0; two years overall, 5-7)
Last year: 5-3 in ACC, 9-3 overall (West coached 14-13 Peach Bowl victory over Kentucky, ranked No. 22 by AP and No. 23 by USA Today)
Strengths: West, an assistant under Danny Ford in the 1980s, has silenced fan disapproval over the program's direction that led to the resignation of Ken Hatfield. Nine starters return on defense.
Weaknesses: Offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen, a Maryland assistant the past two years, must straighten out a unit that finished last in the ACC in yards produced.
Prediction: The last-minute Peach Bowl provided Clemson with momentum, and it will challenge North Carolina for second place.
Coach: George Welsh (12 years, 80-56-3; 21 years overall, 135-102-4)
Last year: 5-3 in ACC, 7-5 overall (lost, 31-13, to Boston College in Carquest Bowl)
Strengths: Junior QB Symmion Willis, an unknown a year ago, set a school record by throwing for 2,347 yards. Seven defensive starters are back.
Weaknesses: The Cavaliers must rebuild their offensive line and overcome the memory of another late fade.
Prediction: Virginia won't start 5-0 for the third straight year -- it opens at Florida State Saturday -- but the Cavaliers' sixth bowl bid in eight years is within reach.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE
Coach: Mike O'Cain (one year, 7-5)
Last year: 4-4 in ACC, 7-5 overall (lost to Michigan, 42-7, in Hall of Fame Bowl)
Strengths: WR Eddie Goines and K Steve Videtich were All-ACC selections and aided an offense that averaged nearly 400 yards and 25 points a game.
Weaknesses: The defense allowed 414 yards per game, and the top returning rusher gained 199 yards.
Prediction: The Wolfpack's second year under O'Cain will see them remain in the middle of the pack in the ACC.
Coach: Bill Lewis (two years, 10-12; eight years overall, 45-44-2)
Last year: 3-5 in ACC, 5-6 overall
Strengths: The coordinators are new, and so is the look. LB Jamal Cox (Gilman) is a three-year starter.
Weaknesses: The top two rushers graduated and the QB situation is unsettled following off-season shoulder surgery to junior Donnie Davis. JC transfer Tommy Luginbill will start opener.
Prediction: A third straight losing season could give Lewis a short stay in the ACC.
Coach: Jim Caldwell (one year, 2-9)
Last year: 1-7 in ACC, 2-9 overall
Strengths: QB Rusty LaRue started five games, and the defense has eight returning starters.
Weaknesses: The Demon Deacons blew four halftime leads in losing their last five games, and must replace ACC rushing leader John Leach.
Prediction: Fortunately for Wake Forest, it gets Duke at home.
Coach: Fred Goldsmith (first year, six years overall, 25-38-1)
Last year: 2-6 in ACC, 3-8 overall
Strengths: Goldsmith's recruiting efforts made Rice respectable in the Southwest Conference, and the starting offensive backfield returns.
Weaknesses: The top three receivers and seven defensive starters must be replaced.
Prediction: The Blue Devils won only four conference games in four years under Barry Wilson, and they'll be lucky to maintain that average.