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' Route '15: The Atlantic Coast Conference has the potential to be unpredictable and exciting this season, but that could come with a price in the race for a playoff spot or strong bowl bids for some teams. The league raised its profile and respectability last season despite a fair amount of parity, but that parity likely is to be greater this season; conference depth could be damaging from top to bottom come December.

' Fast lane: Coach Jimbo Fisher has restored what was true about Florida State during the program's first decade in the conference: Any conversation about the ACC championship must involve the Seminoles. That's true again this season, but a season after their 29-game winning streak ended in the semifinals of the first College Football Playoff, they're far from the only team in that talk. In fact, they probably should be 1B rather than 1A in the discussion as the Clemson Tigers continue to gain traction under coach Dabo Swinney. Clemson's hopes hinge on two things: playmaking quarterback Deshaun Watson staying healthy as he returns from offseason surgery to repair a torn ACL; quickly rebuilding a defense that lost lots of experience and talent. While Clemson and Florida State should battle for the Atlantic Division title (with North Carolina State or Louisville possibly making an impact in a spoiler's role), the Coastal Division's race appears more open. Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are the favorites, but Pittsburgh, North Carolina or Duke could cause some of that aforementioned damage.

' Taking the wheel: Watson had impressive numbers despite playing in just eight games (and starting only five) as a freshman in 2014. If healthy, he could be the latest dual threat to make a Heisman run. But with Florida State plugging in a new quarterback to replace Jameis Winston — Notre Dame transfer and fifth-year senior Everett Golson or redshirt junior Sean Maguire — and replacing four of five starters on the offensive line, Seminoles cornerback Jalen Ramsey could be the most important player on any team. The Seminoles have some replacing to do on a defense that wasn't great in '14 (they regressed considerably from 2013), but that still should be the more stable side of the ball early this season. Ramsey's talent and confidence — he declared himself "the best athlete in college football" at July's ACC Kickoff — could push the Seminoles forward, with the defense holding things together as the offense catches up.

' Speed bump: When Virginia Tech moved to the ACC in 2004, the Hokies immediately proved themselves to be title contenders. With much credit due to the all-around coaching and stability provided by Frank Beamer (having been in Blacksburg since 1987, he is Division I football's longest-tenured coach), that continued through 2011. Three consecutive mediocre seasons have been good enough to run their streak of bowl appearances to 22, but the Hokies haven't sniffed the top of the league standings since 2011. That might change, with winning the Coastal Division a reasonable goal as long as they enter their Nov. 12 matchup at Georgia Tech at full strength.

' Buckle up: Tech vs. Tech and Florida State at Clemson (Nov. 7) should be must-see games because of their impact on the division races, but the crossover contest between Georgia Tech and host Clemson on Oct. 10 also could matter in the end, and it pits Watson against another of the ACC's best returning quarterbacks — Yellow Jackets redshirt junior Justin Thomas, who started every game last season, including a 28-6 win in Atlanta that Watson exited in the first quarter after injuring his knee.

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