Hi. I'm the loner here at ESPN.com. Nice to meet you.
It seems as if I'm the only one among my dot-com colleagues giving the ACC any respect these days (except that Pac-10 guy, he seems pretty smart). Mark Schlabach is still riding the Big 12 bandwagon, even though it's a two-team league these days. Big East blogger Brian Bennett thinks the ACC's place in the conference standings is so low you could trip over it. And that Chris Low fella? Poor guy wore out the letters F-L-O-R-I-D-A on his keyboard.
So, I present to you five games, five opportunities for the ACC to change everyone's minds, to prove it can compete on the national level, that it can win some tough nonconference games and that five ranked preseason teams aren't just space fillers.
Now, I'm not so bold as to say the ACC is actually going to win all of these games. No siree. I maintain my stance that the conference has enough talent and good coaching that it should: a) avoid embarrassing losses like, say, William & Mary; and b) knock off a few teams (LSU) that it hasn't been able to recently. I know, I know, you've heard it all before. So have I. I've said it before. Florida State and Miami are on the verge of being back. There, I said it again. Will they prove me right? I don't know. Neither do Randy Shannon or Jimbo Fisher. But I do know this: They've got plenty of opportunities to find out.
Here are the top five games -- not necessarily the best games -- but the five games that could change public perception of where the ACC stands in the college football hierarchy:
1. Miami at Ohio State, Sept. 11: If the Canes knock off a national title contender on the road in the second week, this team is for real.
2. Virginia Tech vs. Boise State, Sept. 6: All eyes will be watching as the Hokies take on a team that returns all but one starter from last year's undefeated team, including a quarterback with Heisman potential.
3. Florida State at Oklahoma, Sept. 11: Another road trip against what should be a preseason top-10 team gives Fisher a chance to make a splash early in his first season.
4. UNC vs. LSU, Sept. 4: ACC vs. SEC. SEC usually wins. Is Butch Davis ready to take the next step in his fourth season with what should be his best team since he's been there?
5. Florida at Florida State, Nov. 27: The Seminoles haven't won this rivalry game since 2003, but the expectations are for the Gators to remain a top-10 team despite the departure of Tim Tebow and eight others who were drafted.