Contenders & Pretenders in the ACC: Atlantic

USA TODAY Sports

Our "Countdown to Kickoff" continues today as we look at teams across the ACC and determine who really has a shot to win the conference.

Countdown to Kickoff: 36 Days...

Atlantic Division

Clemson Tigers

Just short of the top 10 in the preseason polls, and possibly the most talented team in the conference. This is a definite no-brainer. Verdict: Contender.

Florida State Seminoles

Outside of replacing EJ Manuel at QB, this team has extremely strong prospects this year again. They finished last year ranked #10, and are definitely the most talented team in the conference not named "Clemson" (who's better there is up for debate). Verdict: Contender

North Carolina State Wolfpack

NC State is one of those teams that doesn't have a major stockpile of talent, but definitely makes the most of what they have. They have a considerable amount of talent to work with nonetheless, but with a new head coach there will likely be growing pains. That said, it's the same coach that took Northern Illinois to the Orange Bowl, so big things could be in store... Verdict: Contender

Syracuse Orange

Syracuse is not to be underestimated. Aside from UConn, they were the only team to beat Louisville last year. Their defense is inconsistent but can be really impressive at times, and they're pretty hard to beat at home. We'll see how they pan out this year. Verdict: Jury's Out

Wake Forest Demon Deacons

Take them seriously enough to not get yourself embarrassed, but don't worry about them over the course of a season. 7 wins would be a pretty good season for these guys. Verdict: Pretenders

Maryland Terrapins

Making a bowl game would be a big deal for this team. Aside from Stefon Diggs, they're not particularly talented and generally don't have much going for them. Verdict: Pretenders

Boston College Eagles

A team that can't run the ball (119th nationally in 2012) and can't score (111th nationally) is going to have a hard time winning games. It'll take a lot to get these guys to a bowl game. Verdict: Pretenders

Do you agree or disagree with my picks? What are your thoughts on Syracuse as they enter the league?

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