Last year the ACC proved to be the most exciting conference the country. Everyone beat everyone, and for some reason Clemson and Georgia Tech rose to the top and played a game worthy of their conference.
This year, there's going to be no CJ Spiller. No Derrick Morgan. No Demaryius Thomas.
But there will be a Jacory Harris, Kendrick Burney, and THAT North Carolina defence, that - if it plays well - could well draw comparison to Butch Davis' teams at Miami (but definitely NOT Cleveland!).
So here are our questions?
1) When will UNC find out its fate?
Last time I looked, the chaps at Chapel Hill weren't exactly in the NCAA's good books after senior player Marvin Austin tweeted that he was having an incredible time at THAT South Beach party. We've only got around two weeks until the start of the year, and the powers-that-be has kept mum as to UNC's fate. On the other hand, UNC's defense is a cracker. All over the place there are exceptional defensive players, and that alone could win them the Atlantic division. Which will be nice - because the offense is nothing to shout about.
2) Will Miami continue its renaissance?
After the Hurricanes beat Oklahoma, people started talking about the University of Miami being 'back'. Jacory Harris is their eccentric (or weird, depending on which group of people you believe) quarterback, and if the questionable offensive line stops him getting killed, he could be a dark horse for a Heisman this season. But if you believe some websites, that'll be a big "if".We think they'll win the Coastal.
3) Who's going to be the running back star at Georgia Tech?
Georgia Tech's triple option last season was one of the funnest things about the ACC last year, and it'll pack quite the punch this year too with Roddy Jones, Anthony Allen and Preston Lyons. Oh, and Jonathan Dwyer's not a bad QB, either - although he'll need to find a replacement for Demaryius Thomas, who decided to go to the NFL at wide receiver if Tyler Melton doesn't do his job properly. Having said that, who can defend THAT running attack?
4) Virginia Tech: National Championship Dark Horses?
I've raised my eyebrow about this, but some people are talking about the Hokies being dark horses for the National Championship. The QB/RB combo of Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Williams bodes well for Hokies fans, but the fact that only four of their defensive players are returning is something of a worry. Added to that a schedule that takes in Boise State on a neutral field (although it's practically a home game) and back-to-back tricky visits to North Carolina and Miami, and I'm not so sure.
5) Florida State: Better regular season than offseason?
After starting linebacker Nigel Carr was arrested for FIVE (that's right, FIVE) felonies and wide receiver Jarmon Fortson was booted out for blazing a trail, Jimbo Fisher's side can't wait for the season to start and finally kick away the ghost of Bobby Bowden, who, while much-loved, probably should have left a season or two earlier. Christian Ponder's a good quaterback (if he stays healthy), and FSU has always been able to recruit speed. We'll pick them to lose to Florida in their annual in-state battle, but they've still got 13 starters coming back to the team CB-KR Greg Reid, who may well be the second coming of CJ Spiller. The kid can fly, boys. We'll predict an 9-3 record, with losses coming to Florida, Miami and someone else. But thumbs up, Jimbo, on your first full season.
6) What will be the games to watch?
TiVo Boise State vs Virginia Tech (midget vs giant), Florida State vs Miami (it's always great), North Carolina vs Virginia Tech, Virginia Tech vs Miami (revenge game for the 'Canes, who were hammered in a rainstorm in 2009), Miami at Ohio State (we'll see how good this 'Canes team really is), South Carolina vs Clemson (always a war).
PREDICTIONS: Miami (Coastal winner) beats Florida State (Atlantic winner) for the ACC Title in a game for the ages. Which is unusual with FSU and Miami.
BEST GAME IN 2009 (among many):