1. Florida State - I'm starting to get very high on Florida State. They have almost everything a team needs for an ACC championship season: over 100 starts returning on the O-line, 8 starters on offense, and 8 more on D. They have what I believe is a good coach in Jimbo Fischer, but I am worried about their QB. Look for Manuel to make mistakes in big games and cost the 'Noles a road trip somewhere (Clemson or BC). But even with one loss, I'll take Florida State to rep the Atlantic in Charlotte.
P.S. - Plus, Jimbo's a better pitchman in this jewelry ad than Richt in those Carpets of Dalton commercials.
2. Clemson - If only Clemson wasn't Clemson, I'd have picked them at number one. I do like them in all their division games except FSU, which I've got dead even right now. However, they draw a trip to Blacksburg which I have as a loss, and then they'll get all Clemson-y and lose either at Georgia Tech or NC State. That extra loss will have them watching the CG from home.
3. Boston College - Some people don't like BC's schedule, but I think it sets up nicely for them. I do think they'll lose at Clemson and at VA Tech, but they could give FSU a run for their money in November. Even if they do lose to the Noles, they'll have 5 conference wins which will be enough for this third place pick in the ATL-ic division. And, they'll do it all with BC-style: strong line, responsible QB, and a solid defense. They won't be fun or flashy, but they'll be solid, making them a team everyone needs to take seriously.
4. NC State - With Russel Wilson, I might be picking the Pack for Charlotte; without him, they'll be decent, but still a few games away. I think they need to be careful breaking in Glennon on the road at Wake, and I'll call losses against GA Tech, FSU, Clemson. To me, the make-or-break stretch is b2b games against UNC and BC. If they split those two games and don't get upset somewhere, they have a pretty good season. If they drop both, they might still go bowling, but 2011 will be a slight disappointment.
5. Maryland - The Terps were quite a surprise last year, they won't be as successful this go-round. The 4-game stretch through GA Tech-Clemson-FSU-BC is brutal and no one likes closing the season with b2b away games. With Edsall still settling in, I think it'll be tough for the Terps to top 2-3 league wins...this season. But next year could be different.
6. Wake Forest - Things have adjusted back to normal in Winston-Salem. They have a lot of starters returning, but no real talent if the past few recruiting years are any indicator. It'll be a while before we see Grobe get his guys to over-achieve at '06 levels again. This year, they'll lucky to top last year's one conference win.