Before spring practice was completely underway, I came up with 10 bold predictions for the ACC.
OK, a few were not so bold. I projected Florida State and Louisville would leave spring without a starting quarterback, and that ended up happening. Most of the other predictions remain up in the air until the season begins.
But now is a good time to add a few more to the list, with a more complete picture of all 14 teams post-spring. Here are five to watch:
1. Virginia Tech will win at least 10 games. This statement wouldn't be so bold in 2008, but believing in the Hokies makes me part of a very small minority after three straight subpar seasons. The offense looked vastly improved in the spring; the defense should be terrific up front; overall, 16 starters return. Plus, the schedule is among the more manageable in the ACC. Opening with Ohio State is difficult, yes, but the Hokies beat the Buckeyes a year ago and now get them at home. Virginia Tech should also be favored in its crossover games against NC State and Boston College, giving the Hokies a clear edge over Georgia Tech and Miami. The Jackets and Canes each play Clemson and Florida State from the Atlantic. Virginia Tech has to prove it's a far more disciplined team to make this prediction come true. But based on reports from the spring, Virginia Tech should be in line to be a player again in the ACC.
2. Clemson will have two 1,000-yard receivers. The Tigers came oh-so-close to hitting this mark last year despite all the upheaval at quarterback. But the prospects of a healthy Deshaun Watson playing a full season increase the chances that Mike Williams (1,030 yards in 2014) and Artavis Scott (965 yards in 2014) will each hit 1,000 yards receiving. Clemson has never had two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season, though it also came close in 2011 with Sammy Watkins (1,219 yards) and DeAndre Hopkins (978). Watson, Williams and Scott are all good enough for the twin 1,000-yard seasons to be reached.
3. Florida State will find its way into the top 10 again. This one goes hand in hand with my earlier prediction that the Noles will post double-digit wins this season despite being so young. The schedule sets up beautifully for a team that will have to go through some growing pains early on. There is a very real possibility the Noles will be unbeaten headed into their matchup against Georgia Tech on Oct. 24. That would require wins over Miami and Louisville, but both games are at home and Florida State figures to be the favorite. The game that should concern Noles fans early in the season is a Friday night trip to Boston College in Week 3. The Eagles have given Florida State everything they could the last two seasons. Since the game is early on and on the road, this one has upset watch written all over it.
4. NC State will be the best team in North Carolina ... and potentially a dark horse in the Atlantic. The Wolfpack beat Wake Forest and North Carolina last year pretty decisively, but Duke ended up with the best record among the state teams. That will change this year, as NC State is poised to have an even better season. With nine starters returning on offense -- including quarterback Jacoby Brissett and a deep running back group -- optimism is high in Raleigh. Yes, a go-to receiver must be established and the defense has to prove it can play consistently. But there is a window of opportunity here for Dave Doeren in Year 3 with a roster deeper and more talented than any he has had since he arrived.
5. Al Golden will do enough to return in 2016. It is pretty clear Golden is facing a critical must-win season and is on one of the hottest seats in the ACC. But I believe Golden will do enough to keep guiding Miami into the future. The schedule is extremely difficult, and that is one factor that should be taken into consideration. If the Hurricanes can pull out eight or nine wins given a slate featuring Nebraska, Florida State and Clemson, in addition to the usual Coastal rotation -- he should stay in Coral Gables. He will have a junior quarterback in 2016, better depth, better talent and potentially his best recruiting class signed. There are plenty of hypotheticals, of course, but Miami will be better than it was a year ago.