Five games to watch
1. FSU at Clemson, Sept. 24: Both teams have huge nonconference home games the previous week, but this one will go a long way in determining the fate of the Atlantic Division.
2. Clemson at Virginia Tech, Oct. 1: The Hokies' schedule could not be easier, with road games against the three worst ACC teams, but they should be tested by the Tigers, despite this being the third game in a stretch of Auburn-FSU-VT for Dabo Swinney's team.
3. UNC at N.C. State, Nov. 5: Tom O'Brien attempts to match Dick Sheridan as the only Wolfpack coach with five straight wins over the Tar Heels, who have lost the last two in the series by a total of five points.
4. UNC at Virginia Tech, Nov. 17: The last time these two met on a Thursday night in Blacksburg, UNC walked out with one of the biggest wins in former coach Butch Davis' tenure.
5. Boston College at Notre Dame, Nov. 19: BC senior Montel Harris needs 1,003 yards to pass N.C. State's Ted Brown for the career ACC rushing record. If his balky knee holds up, this will likely be the game where he does it.
Five newcomers to watch
1. Sammy Watkins, Clemson receiver: Swinney knows how to recruit speed, and Watkins, a true freshman, can burn.
2. Devonta Freeman, FSU running back: With Chris Thompson's achy back, the sixth-ranked Seminoles will need help in the backfield. Freeman, who enrolled in January, has a leg up on fellow true freshman, James Wilder Jr.
3. Al Golden, Miami coach: Golden unknowingly stepped into the middle of an unmitigated NCAA disaster at "The U" with allegations by a former booster of a pay-for-play scandal. But he made it work at Temple, with half the talent.
4. Clemson's offensive assistants: After a 6-7 finish, there's some pressure on Swinney to win more at Clemson, and he made two brilliant hires in coordinator Chad Morris, a real-life version of "Friday Night Lights" coaching maestro Eric Taylor, and line coach Robbie Caldwell, the former N.C. State and UNC assistant who has perfected the art of making chicken salad out of chicken ... scraps.
5. Gio Bernard, UNC running back: He must stay healthy, which has been a problem since his junior year in high school, but the redshirt freshman has the skill set to replace Johnny White as a runner and pass-catcher in John Shoop's offense.
1. Russell Wilson and T.J. Yates: The former N.C. State and UNC quarterbacks provided tremendous leadership and great production. Both were pure class.
2. Ralph Friedgen's play-calling: His last two games, 89 points in wins over N.C. State and ECU, were clinics. New Maryland AD Kevin Anderson fired Friedgen for financial reasons, not a lack of football acumen.
3. Woody Durham: It has been 40 years since someone other than Durham regularly called UNC football games on the radio. It just won't be the same without him.
4. ACC's integrity: Miami's Nevin Shapiro-funded bombshell comes on the heels of a pupu platter of nine alleged major NCAA violations at UNC. Georgia Tech was forced to vacate its 2009 ACC title for minor improper benefits (and obstruction of NCAA justice), and Florida State is two years removed from its own academic fraud ruling.
5. Butch Davis, the recruiter: With Quinton Coples, Donte Moss, Zach Brown and Dwight Jones still on campus, the Tar Heels are positioned to win Davis' favorite event, the NFL draft (again).
We won't miss
1. Randy Shannon, the tactician: The former Miami coach is an honorable man and fine coordinator, but a mediocre game coach.
2. Bryan Stinespring's play-calling: A long overdue move by Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer to turn the offense over to assistant Mike O'Cain, who was key in quarterback Tyrod Taylor's development.
3. Presbyterian, the patsy: The poor Blue Hose gave up 111 points in two games against ACC opponents. They even made Wake Forest look good.
4. ACC title game in Florida: Charlotte acquitted itself as the first-time host of the conference title game, which doesn't need to return to Florida ever again.
5. Butch Davis, the CEO: Bottom line, Davis hired John Blake and Jennifer Wiley -- who were linked to six of the major alleged NCAA violations -- and that made him part of the problem, not the solution.
Shoes to fill
1. Bryn Renner, UNC quarterback: T.J. Yates, much maligned for his first three years, put up an all-time season in 2010, and those 37 school records don't measure his value as a leader.
2. Mike Glennon, N.C. State quarterback: Russell Wilson was one of the most productive players in ACC history. Period. Glennon has added pressure by virtue of the way Wilson left for Wisconsin.
3. Logan Thomas, Virginia Tech quarterback: Speaking of productive players, Thomas has to replace Tyrod Taylor, the ACC Player of the Year and winningest QB in school history.
4. LaRon Byrd, Miami receiver: Assuming he avoids the Shapiro scandal, Byrd will be needed to offset the loss of Leonard Hankerson, who led the ACC with 1,156 receiving yards last year.
5. Malliciah Goodman, Clemson defensive end: Da'Quan Bowers dropped like a stone in the NFL draft but left behind 15.5 sacks on the Tigers' defensive front.
Players of the year
Offense: David Wilson, RB, Virginia Tech
Defense: Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston Col.
1. Florida State 9-3, 7-1
2. Clemson 8-4, 5-3
3. N.C. State 8-4, 4-4
4. Maryland 7-5, 4-4
5. Boston College 6-6, 4-4
6. Wake Forest 4-8, 2-6
1. Virginia Tech 11-1, 7-1
2. UNC 8-4, 5-3
3. Georgia Tech 7-5, 4-4
4. Miami 5-7, 3-5
5. Duke 4-8, 1-7
6. Virginia 4-8, 1-7
ACC title game
Virginia Tech over Florida State