ACC season predictions

The wait is over. Week 1 of the 2010 season is officially here, and so are the conference predictions. Here’s a look at how this season might unfold for the ACC:

Coastal Division winner: Miami

The Canes have all of the pieces in place to win their first division title since joining the ACC. They’ve got experience and depth in all of the right places, and have finally been under the direction of the same coordinators for two years.

Atlantic Division winner: Florida State

Jimbo Fisher has the advantage of starting his career in the weaker of the two divisions, and offensively, nobody else compares in the Atlantic Division. The Noles have a veteran offensive line and one of the league’s top quarterbacks. Defensively, FSU can only get better.

ACC champion: Loser of the regular-season matchup

Revenge is sweet, and the loser of the Oct. 9 rivalry game in Miami will get it. Final word? FSU redeems itself from last year’s loss to the Canes during the regular season, but Miami wins it all in December.

Offensive MVP: Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder

He could be a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, and he’s got plenty of surrounding talent to work with.

Virginia Tech running back Ryan Williams is also a legitimate candidate here, but he won’t get enough carries with Darren Evans joining him in the backfield this season.

Defensive MVP: Clemson safety DeAndre McDaniel

He had eight interceptions for 128 yards and 102 tackles. The interception total was tied for third in the nation and he was the only player in college football last season with at least eight interceptions and at least 100 tackles. He was the first player in Clemson history to do both in the same season. He also had two sacks and a total of five tackles for loss.

Surprise team: Maryland

The Terps have enough talent to rebound from their abysmal 2-10 season – particularly at running back and wide receiver, but they’ll have to improve up front on both sides and will be under the direction of first-year starting quarterback Jamarr Robinson.

Team most likely to disappoint: North Carolina

(If it hasn’t already.) After back-to-back eight-win seasons that ended with losses to Big East teams in the Meineke Car Care Bowl, expectations have risen for Butch Davis in his fourth season. He has one of the best defenses in the country, a Top 25 team, and experience on offense. But the program has also been clouded by an NCAA investigation into possible improper contact with agents, and the university is investigating possible academic misconduct.

Surprise player: Wake Forest quarterback Ted Stachitas

He’s tasked with replacing the winningest quarterback in school history, but he was recruited for this offense and will find a way to move the chains.

Newcomer of the Year: Miami junior college transfer Chase Ford

He has already drawn comparisons to Jeremy Shockey, and is expected to contribute immediately. He led the Southwest Junior College Football Conference with 32 receptions and 545 receiving yards. He was the league's MVP at Kilgore Junior College.

Freshman of the Year: FSU cornerback Lamarcus Joyner

The USA Today National Defensive Player of the Year is a bigger version of Greg Reid and might contribute as a kickoff returner as well. ESPN Recruiting services ranked him the No. 1 cornerback in his class and the No. 6 prospect overall. He could also see some snaps on offense.

Coach of the Year: Duke coach David Cutcliffe

Last season’s 5-7 record was the best the program has seen since 1994. If Cutcliffe is able to take the next step and win six games, it will be the Blue Devils’ first bowl appearance since 1994. Cutcliffe has already made a case for his award.

Can’t-miss game: Virginia Tech at Miami, Nov. 20

These are the ACC’s two highest-ranked teams heading into the season, and it’s likely this matchup could determine the Coastal Division winner. The series is even the past two years.