The ACC has not had a BCS Champion since Florida State back in 1999 and they haven't had a BCS Championship Game appearance since Florida State in 2000. The bright side for the though was two ACC appeared in BCS bowls (Virginia Tech in the Sugar, Clemson in the Orange) for the first time in conference history last year. The downside was that both teams lost (Virginia Tech lost to Michigan 23-20 in OT and Clemson lost to West Virginia 70-33). The ACC is 2-13 in BCS Bowls since the beginning of the BCS. This conference is in need of a serious image overhaul and it looks like this year can do it for the ACC with several strong title contenders in Florida State, Clemson, and Virginia Tech. So here for you are some things to look out for this year in the ACC.
Rising Star of the ACC: The rising star of the ACC is Sammy Watkins. He was voted by the media as the preseason player of the year and has a great upside this year after he serves whatever disciplinary measures head coach Dabo Swinney gives Sammy for his marijuana arrest.
Fading Star of the ACC: The fading star of the ACC is E.J. Manuel. Manuel came in with a lot of fanfare and helped salvage the last season for Bobby Bowden. He always seems to get an injury at the most inopportune time. He has yet to reach the full potential that many people saw in him and unless he leads FSU to an ACC title, he'll only have one more year to prove his worth.
Best Conference Game of the ACC: There is a tie for the best conference game of the year in the ACC. The first game of the year is when Clemson goes to Florida State on September 22nd. This game should determine the Atlantic Division. The other game of the year would also include Florida State when they go to Virginia Tech on Thursday, November 8th. This will probably be a preview of the ACC Championship Game December 1st.
Best Non-Conference Game of the ACC: The best non-conference game of the year for the ACC is when Clemson opens up the season with Auburn in the Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic. These teams played a great game last year and there may be some bad blood between the two after Dabo Swinney did his best professional wrestler impersonation. This game will go a long way in determining both schools fate for the season.
Surprise Team of the ACC: The surprise team of the ACC is N.C. State. This team has 7 returning starters on offense and 6 returning starters on defense. Their schedule sets up favorably with a non-conference schedule that features two BCS schools with losing records (Tennessee and UCONN), a first year FBS school (South Alabama), and an FCS school (The Citadel). Their ACC schedule has only two true tough road games with trips to North Carolina and Clemson. Their home games feature FSU, Virginia, Wake Forest, and Boston College. They should be able to be a contender for the Atlantic Division and be the surprise team this year.
Dark Horse Conference Champion: My pick for the dark horse conference champion is Virgina. Mike London has steadily progressed at Virginia with his first year record being 4-8 and his second year record of 8-5. This team has the potential to pull some upsets and only have three tough conference games this year (at Georgia Tech September 15th, at N.C. State on November 3rd, and at Virginia Tech on November 24th). If they can build on their success from last year, they'll be in Charlotte.
Predicted Conference Championship Game: I think that in the end it will be FSU playing Virginia Tech in Charlotte for the title. I like FSU to win the game and go on to the Orange Bowl.