Originally posted on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 2/12/12


Oh, the ACC. The league got their first ever multi-BCS bid season but it would leave the conference

unfulfilled in the grand scheme of things. The exuberance of getting both Clemson and Virginia Tech invited to the big boy party was fleeting as both teams went out and lost in painful fashion. Virginia Tech played a game where they had the edge on everything but the scoreboard. Clemson got boat raced by the Mountaineers, giving up 70 points.

As we inch closer to spring ball the expansion of the conference is still a ways away although with West Virginia moving to the Big XII the timeline for Pitt and Syracuse's move might be pushed up. John Swofford and the conference will absolutely have some decisions to make as the Big East dust settles and the ACC is caught in the shuffle given their additions.

Both on and off the field the ACC is home to some interesting stories as we have new faces in key spots, coaches fighting off the all to common "hot seat" declarations and teams are looking for a way to take that next step. We've sifted though the rest of your BCS conference storylines here at The Crystal Ball Run and today we get you squared away on what's happening in the ACC.

10. Will Florida State Be "Back" For the Umpteenth Year?

We've all heard it before for it seems like every year since the Seminoles went in their dip after the 2000 loss to Oklahoma in the title game. Last year, starting as a pre-season Top 10 team, the cry was louder than ever that Jimbo Fisher had finally resurrected the Florida State program. Then Oklahoma happened, a tough loss that did more than drop the Noles from the rankings. It helped kickoff a three game losing streak that gave Clemson the footing they needed to grab the Atlantic Division. Will 2012 be "the" year for the Noles? Getting back to a BCS Bowl is job one, something the Seminoles have not done since 2005 but the true goal is being back into the national picture. With momentum built off the 2011 campaign, including a bowl win over Notre Dame, perhaps we can see Florida State elbow their way back to where they feel they belong.

9. Do Georgia Tech and Paul Johnson stay the course?

In 2009 in the ACC it seemed like Paul Johnson's "way" was validated when his team went out and won the league championship and snapped up a BCS Bowl bid. Since then the Jackets are 14-12 and for Johnson's tenure they have lost four straight bowl games. They've lost three straight to division foe Miami and while GT is 2-2 against the Dawgs their in-state rival is on the upswing and looks to start the year in the Top 10 at worst. Something has got to change in Atlanta for the Jackets to get to where they want to be, the top of the Coastal division and the ACC. Getting to bowl games has not been the Yellow Jackets issue, they've been to fifteen straight, getting to good bowl games is the problem and the Independence and Sun Bowls that Paul Johnson has been to aren't much better than the Gator and Humanitarian bowl in Gailey's final years.

Entering spring we'll see if Paul Johnson makes any changes in an effort to get more out of his offense. If winning ACC Championships is the goal the Jackets have to be more than a one trick pony.

8. Frank Spaziani has to get on track or get out.

BC had a twelve year bowl streak until the disaster that was 2012. Star running back Montel Harris went down. The quarterback play was woeful. The defense gave up more points than we've seen out of Boston College in a long, long time. The lone bright spot was linebacker Luke Kuechly who, despite the team's four wins, was able to win the Lott, Lombardi, Butkus and Bronko Nagurski awards. The Fire Spaz train has been warming up in the station and it seems this season will be about the long time BC assistant keeping his job as the head coach. The gang in Chestnut Hill need to get back to their eight win standard to help him retain his job and that is no small task as the rest of the league is clawing to get better.

7. Stephen Morris grabs the reins full time.

The Jacory Harris experiment is now over in Miami, people. No more mind numbing plays followed by solid throws downfield followed by folding in the pocket. At least the Hurricanes hope not as Stephen Morris steps in fulltime for Al Golden's squad. The junior who started the second half of 2010 after Harris got injured is now "the man" in Coral Gables. He showed some flashes of what could be in 2010 but must improve in his decision making as the Canes need a solid constant at quarterback to help steer their ship in the right direction. The tough part for Morris is he'll be entering spring without Lamar Miller, Travis Benjamin, Tommy Streeter or LaRon Byrd. On the positive side expect Allen Hurns to become the go to guy at The U after showing some reliability as a third option in 2011.

6. Larry Fedora brings the spread to UNC.

Mack Brown, Carl Torbush, John Bunting and Butch Davis all lived and died by the pro style offense. Larry Fedora now brings the spread offense to the Tar Heels with the hopes of getting to an ACC Championship Game. There are weapons for Fedora to use; quarterback Bryn Renner is comfortable in the shotgun, Gio Bernard is the ACC's leading returning rusher, Erik Highsmith and Jheranie Boyd are capable wide receivers and tight end Eric Ebron is a ball of athleticism waiting to be used. The pieces on offense are there, how quickly they assimilate to the system and digest the playbook over the spring will be the first step towards Fedora proving he belongs on the BCS stage.

5. NCAA issues!

You can't mention the futures of UNC or Miami without talking a little NCAA. The Heels expect to hear from the folks in Indianapolis any day now with their punishment and Miami's investigation is still in the early stages. North Carolina is staring a bowl ban and scholarship losses in the face while the Canes still await their Notice of Allegations in order to decide their next move. For two teams that aren't stellar at packing their respective stadiums the ominous NCAA hit that is coming could do considerable damage to what both coaches are hoping to build.

4. Can Sammy Watkins avoid the sophomore slump?

We saw Sammy Watkins burst on to the scene in 2011 and up until November he was one of college football's most dynamic stars. Then he hit the proverbial wall as the games against better opponents took their toll on his body. He rebounded in the ACC Championship Game and finished the season with 1,225 receiving yards, 83 catches and 13 total touchdowns. Teams have seen the kid now and they understand how dangerous he is entering 2012, gameplans will change and how Watkins grows as a player will be critical to the success of the Clemson Tigers who lose Dwayne Allen and DeAndre Hopkins from the ranks. Sammy Watkins and the Tigers are looking to build on their ACC Championship and it starts with him and Tajh Boyd continuing to rip up defenses.

3. Does Mike Locksley "fix" Randy Edsall's problems at Maryland?

Randy Edsall's 2-10 first season at Maryland was bad, but not nearly as bad as the 20 some odd players that decided he was not the guy they wanted to play for and elected to transfer. A fractured playerbase is far worse than any win and loss total as it tells the story of what is going on behind the scenes and how truly ugly things had become in College Park. Edsall went out looking for a fix and he found Mike Locksley. The coach who was fired from New Mexico during his third season. The coach who had an altercation with a staff member and legal trouble with a female football staffer. That was Edsall's fix and for many people it was a head scratcher.

However, focusing on Locksley's issues with adults ignores the fact that he is, and has always been, really good at one thing; player relations. He relates to players. He's a devil in recruiting. He is the perfect guy for a coach who has a group of players that absolutely hate him. If Locksley can become a player advocate and a liason of sorts for Edsall to smooth things over in College Park then the new offensive coordinator can get the Terps focused on football and Edsall will have made the right move. Locksley's familiar with folks in the area, high school coaches like him and their players do to, he has the opportunity to rebuild his image while altering the perception of Maryland's program under Edsall.

2. How does Dabo recover from the Orange Bowl beat down?

The 70-33 bludgeoning at the hands of the Mountaineers cost Kevin Steele, the defensive coordinator, his job and moved Dabo Swinner from the penthouse to "outhouse adjacent" in record time. He built some good feelings with the recruiting class that he pulled in and now he has Brent Venables, the long time Oklahoma defensive coordinator, at the helm to fix the defense. Venables must work quick with a unit that loses Andre Branch, Brandon Thompson, Coty Sensaubaugh in order to get the defense prepared to play in 2012. Clemson hopes to have the same turn around that Florida State under wentfrom 2009 to 2010 when their points allowed dropped by 10 and the Noles got back to terrorizing quarterbacks.

1. Will the ACC have a good team?

It has been over a decade since the ACC sent a team to the BCS Championship game and just as long since a team in the league finished in the Top 5 of the BCS standings. While other leagues have seen their conference improve the ACC has failed to get over the hump. Clemson seemed close before November sent them spiraling. Virginia Tech has become a record on repeat in the conference; dominate the ACC get to a BCS Bowl but never enter the national conversation. Florida State continues to fall short. Miami hasn't been ranked in the Top 10 in November since 2005. Georgia Tech flames out after hot starts. The rest of the league is as average as it gets.

For the ACC to be taken seriously they need a major player, someone who can be in the hunt in November and force the national media to pay attention to whats going on in the league.

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