After nearly a decade of SEC dominance, it was only fitting that the other southeastern conference was the league that finally ended the streak of national championships compiled by Alabama, Auburn, Florida, and LSU. And it was fitting that the league earned the honors thanks to an undefeated season by Florida State. After all, the Seminoles were the powerhouse that played in the first three BCS championship games from 1998 to 2000, winning the 1999 edition 49-26 over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. A fallow period marked much of the beginning of the 21st century for FSU as they transitioned from the long tenure of Bobby Bowden to a new era of leadership under Jimbo Fisher.
The ACC continues to balloon in size, accepting new member Louisville to replace the departure of Maryland for the Big Ten as well as joining in affiliation with Notre Dame and welcoming the Fighting Irish as a non-football member of the league. From its eight-team roots in 1953, to its expansion to a dozen teams over the 2004 and 2005 seasons, the conference has exploded into a 14-team loop stretching from Boston to Miami along the Atlantic seaboard and more than 500 miles inland toward Kentucky and Indiana. Like every other league the names themselves are becoming far more nebulous, mere branding as conferences jockey for position and try to remain relevant in the new era.
In 2014 the ACC has the benefit of having the defending national champion in its corner as it looks to gain a spot in the four-team bracket at the end of the year. It also has the detriment of its next two best teams also being clustered in the same division as the last BCS champion standing. The league is heavily skewed toward the Atlantic, with the Seminoles looking over their shoulder at Clemson and Louisville squads that lose key components but return plenty of talent to keep Jameis Winston and crew on their toes throughout the regular season.
The Coastal is not without its intrigue, though, as it could potentially round into a wide-open race involving as many at least three (if not five) teams. Defending division champ Duke remains a contender for the chance to square off against the Atlantic winner, though they will be challenged by rival North Carolina for the honors. Virginia Tech cannot be discounted as it rethinks an offense that turned anemic in the Logan Thomas era, Miami continues to threaten to break out from its southern perch, and Georgia Tech could benefit from attrition within the rest of the field.
Click ahead to see predictions for the order of ranking in the Coastal and the Atlantic…