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Team outlooks


A look at teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference in the projected order of finish, as voted on by members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.

Atlantic Division

1. Florida State - Talented running backs led by Leon Washington and Lorenzo Booker could compensate for uncertainty at quarterback. All three starting linebackers return, but coach Bobby Bowden needs to replace nine players chosen in the first six rounds of the NFL draft.

2. Boston College - A stingy defense propelled by defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka will help last year's Big East co-champion adjust smoothly into the ACC. Quarterback Quinton Porter, who started 10 games in 2003 but was passed over in 2004, should slip easily back into the starting role.

3. North Carolina State - With a returning quarterback who threw more interceptions than touchdowns last season and so many questions at wide receiver, odds are that coach Chuck Amato relies on his running game. Still, he has to choose a replacement for T.A. McLendon, who turned pro after his junior season.

4. Clemson - With new offensive and defensive coordinators, the Tigers look to better last year's 6-5 record. Much of that will depend on quarterback Charlie Whitehurst, who threw for seven touchdowns and was intercepted 17 times last year.

5. Maryland - The Terps hope quarterback Sam Hollenbach, who has one career start, can spark an offense that finished ninth in the ACC with 298 yards a game. All three starting linebackers return to anchor an otherwise inexperienced defense.

6. Wake Forest - The Demon Deacons want their first winning season since 2002 and will lean on senior tailback Chris Barclay, who rushed for 1,010 yards and nine touchdowns last year. Only six defensive starters return.

Coastal Division

1. Virginia Tech - With Marcus Vick at quarterback and plenty of talent in the skill positions, the Hokies could retain their championship status. Their biggest question mark is the secondary, where cornerback Eric Green and safety Vincent Fuller left for the NFL.

2. Miami - The defense will lead the Hurricanes this year, as 11 players who started at least five games each return to the lineup. Miami lost six starters from an offense that led the ACC in scoring last season with 31.7 points a game.

3. Virginia - A school-record seven players were taken in the NFL draft, leaving the Cavaliers seeking replacements. Marques Hagans, a top receiver who was converted to quarterback last year, leads an offense that returns seven starters, including senior tailback Wali Lundy.

4. Georgia Tech - The Yellow Jackets return the school's fifth all-time leading rusher in tailback P.J. Daniels, but much of his success will depend on an offensive line that lost three starters. Nine starters return to a defense that ranked 12th in the nation in total defense.

5. North Carolina - Expectations are higher, but the Tar Heels will be without Darian Durant, last year's record-setting quarterback, and will face eight teams that played in bowls last season. Special teams will be a strength.

6. Duke - Three starters graduated from an offensive line that allowed 39 sacks last season, but returning running back Cedric Dargan still managed to rush for more than 100 yards three times in seven games. Former Maryland assistant Bill O'Brien takes over an offense that finished last in Division I-A with 265.5 yards a game.

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