HOW THEY'LL FINISH
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: DEC. 4 IN CHARLOTTE
VIRGINIA TECH OVER FLORIDA STATE
Best offensive player
RB, Virginia Tech, Soph.
The leader of a deep backfield, Williams became the first freshman in ACC history to lead the conference in both rushing (1,655 yards) and scoring (22 TDs).
Best defensive player
DE, North Carolina, Jr.
The cornerstone of a defense packed with NFL talent, Quinn had a breakout 2009, leading the conference in tackles for loss (19) and ranking second in sacks (11).
Freshman to watch
LB, Florida State
One of the nation's top linebacker recruits, Luc enrolled in January out of Port St. Lucie (Fla.) Treasure Coast High and is already pushing to start in the middle.
Coach on the rise
The charismatic 40-year-old led Clemson to a 9--5 mark in his first full season, which included its first trip to the ACC title game and its first bowl win since '05.
Coach on the hot seat
The Fridge has gotten cold, with four losing seasons in the last six years, including 2009 (2--10). With a new AD and president on the way in College Park, the pressure is on to win.
PLAYERS TO WATCH (Top performers from unranked teams)
LT, Boston College, Sr.
A 6'7", 295-pound All-America candidate and biochemistry major, Castonzo allowed just one sack in '09 and has made 41 starts over the past three years.
CB, Virginia, Sr.
This physical, 6'2", 200-pound corner has eight interceptions, 145 tackles and 28 passes broken up (tops among ACC returnees) in his career.
S, Clemson, Jr.
He's athletic (he played linebacker in 2008) and has a nose for the ball (he was the nation's only player with at least eight interceptions and 100 tackles).
WR, Duke, Jr.
This underneath slot receiver will once again be the Blue Devils' go-to pass catcher. He led the ACC in receptions (65) and receiving yards per game (87.2) last season.
QB, N.C. State, Jr.
An infielder in the Rockies' farm system, Wilson can beat teams with either his arm (31 passing TDs in '09) or legs (eight rushing TDs in his career).
Clemson avoided a crisis when quarterback KYLE PARKER, a Freshman All-America last year, decided to play football this fall instead of signing with the Colorado Rockies, who selected him with the 26th overall pick of June's draft. In 2009--10 Parker (below) became the first Division I athlete to throw for 20 TDs and hit 20 home runs in the same school year.... The conference will be the site of several comeback stories this season with the return of Boston College linebacker MARK HERZLICH (Ewing's sarcoma), N.C. State linebacker NATE IRVING (collapsed lung and broken left leg suffered in a car crash) and Georgia Tech safety COOPER TAYLOR (Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome).... With the graduation of Riley Skinner, who started 49 of the last 51 games, Wake Forest will enter the year without a QB who has attempted a college pass. Junior SKYLAR JONES, a receiver last season, is the front-runner, but he is being pushed by redshirt sophomore TED STACHITAS, who succeeded Tim Tebow in high school.... First-year Virginia coach MIKE LONDON, who won the 2008 I-AA national championship at nearby Richmond, is installing a traditional, pro-style offense in order to bring balance to a unit that averaged just 99.1 rushing yards a game last year.
MICHAEL TURESKI/ICON SMI