The ACC folks will tell you the league has caught up with the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC in college football. A record eight ACC teams played in bowl games last season and five of them won.
ACC teams were 13-9 vs. BCS foes in 2005 and five teams were ranked in the final Associated Press Top 25 poll. And what about the NFL draft? The ACC set an NCAA record with 12 first-round selections this year, including seven of the first 15 choices overall, and 51 players from the league's 12 teams were drafted, more than any other conference in the country. With all that talent in the pros, don't be surprised if several of the ACC's teams take a step back this season. Here are five ACC predictions for 2006:
1. Florida State will win the ACC for the 13th time in the 15 seasons it has played in the league. FSU will win at Miami on Sept. 4 and won't lose before its Nov. 25 regular season finale against rival Florida. In the Atlantic Division, the Seminoles will finish at least two games ahead of Clemson, which will get out of the gates slowly again this season. Miami and Virginia Tech will play for the Coastal Division title at the Orange Bowl on Nov. 4. Then the Seminoles will beat the Hurricanes again in the ACC championship game in Jacksonville, Fla.
2. For the third season in a row, an ACC coach won't be fired after the football season. Clemson will win 10 games to secure Tommy Bowden's job. North Carolina will win at least seven to take the pressure off John Bunting. Maryland will play better, but won't be bowl eligible because of its tough schedule. So Ralph Friedgen will enter the 2007 season on the hot seat, along with Virginia's Al Groh and NC State's Chuck Amato.
3. The most dangerous offensive weapon in the ACC won't be Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson. It will be FSU quarterback Drew Weatherford, who will blossom in his second season as a starter. With receivers De' Cody Fagg, Chris Davis and Greg Carr, the Seminoles will become feared again on offense. With another intimidating defense, FSU will be among the last undefeated teams in college football and in contention for the BCS title game.
4. Duke won't go winless. The Blue Devils will lose to Division I-AA Richmond in their Sept. 2 opener, but Duke will win one game to avoid a 12-loss season. After losing quarterback Zack Asack, who was suspended for the season as punishment for plagiarism, the Blue Devils might not be favored in any of their games this season. Give Duke credit: Its out-of-conference schedule is tougher than most teams in the ACC. In addition to playing the Spiders, Duke plays at Alabama and at home against Vanderbilt and Navy.
5. Georgia Tech will provide the ACC its biggest out-of-conference victory of the season -- but it won't come against Notre Dame. The Yellow Jackets will give the Fighting Irish everything they have, but Notre Dame will still pull out a close victory on Sept. 2. Georgia Tech will rebound well and finish third in the Coastal Division and salvage its season by upsetting rival Georgia on the road.
Mark Schlabach covers college football and men's college basketball for ESPN.com. You can contact him at email@example.com.