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Three ACC Teams to Watch

By BJ Bennett
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Expect big things from this group, including anticipation and attention that carry through to kickoff.

The pre-season is a time for prognostication and punditry, with all of the hype reaching a fever pitch come late August. As we enter the summer months, here are three ACC programs who appear to be on the rise. Expect big things from this group, including anticipation and attention that carry through to kickoff.

1. Syracuse -- Per Phil Steele, the Orange return the most starters of any team in college football with an astounding 20. The entire starting defense is back intact. Get ready to hear a whole lot more about quarterback Eric Dungey. He completed 65% of his throws a year ago, averaging 297.7 yards passing per game in Dino Babers' scheme. Dungey, who missed the final stretch of the season due to injury, was 32-of-38 for 434 yards and three touchdowns against Boston College in his final full game of the year; the week prior, Dungey rushed for over 100 yards in an upset win of nationally-ranked Virginia Tech.  After four wins in Babers' first season, the expectation is more continuity and success this fall.  

2. Georgia Tech -- The Yellow Jackets won nine games this past year, but Georgia Tech now has sights set on the ACC Championship Game. Countless key players return from a team that finished the season on a four-game winning streak, winning at Virginia Tech and at Georgia in that span. Presumptive-starting quarterback Matthew Jordan will step into a great situation, as playmakers, see Dedrick Mills, Clinton Lynch, Qua Searcy and J.J. Green, are everywhere in the offensive backfield. Defensively, the Yellow Jackets will have one of the top secondaries in the league. Georgia Tech will have a national showcase in week one: Tennessee, in new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, on Labor Day.     

3. North Carolina State -- Fresh off wins over rival North Carolina and Vanderbilt, the latter coming in the Independence Bowl, the Wolfpack return a standout quarterback in Ryan Finley, perhaps the league's most-versatile player in Jaylen Samuels and a likely first-round draft pick at edge-rusher in Bradley Chubb. This could be Dave Doeren's best and most-talented team, a balanced and well-rounded group. North Carolina State's passing game and front seven are poised to be especially-strong.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: / Twitter: @BJBennettSports