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Bold ACC predictions for the 2016 season

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Steele says ACC is No. 2 conference (0:59)

Phil Steele breaks down why the ACC is the No. 2 conference in the Power 5 and predicts which teams will reach the National Championship. (0:59)

It's finally Kickoff Week. It's also time for our bold predictions for the ACC.

Virginia makes a bowl game: The Cavailers have a new head coach, new starting quarterback, and depth concerns up and down the roster. So why would this team end a five-year bowl drought and make it to the postseason? For starters, Virginia has been pretty close to bowl eligibility the past two seasons, losing a combined eight games by a touchdown or less. The difference between winning and losing has been mental breakdowns late in games, from penalties to turnovers to big-play busts. Bronco Mendenhall has stressed taking care of the details since he arrived, and that will pay off when Virginia is in tight games this season. Kurt Benkert gives Virginia an opportunity to be more consistent at quarterback. And the schedule plays into the Cavs' favor, with only one nonconference game against a Power 5 opponent (Oregon). If Virginia can go 3-1 in nonconference play, it only has to find three wins in conference play to become bowl eligible. Do you know what Virginia's record was last season in ACC play? 3-5. It's entirely possible. -- Andrea Adelson

There will be a three-way tie atop the Atlantic Division: A lot of pundits are picking Clemson to repeat as the Atlantic Division champion. A few others think Florida State gets back on top this year. Even a few stragglers are daring to pick upstart Louisville. But here’s the really fun pick: All of the above. What if Louisville pulls the upset against Florida State on Sept. 17, then falls at Clemson on Oct. 1? That puts the Tigers in the driver’s seat for the division, but they still have to go on the road and beat the Seminoles. That might be tough, too. So there’s a reasonable chance all three teams end up with one loss, each having beaten one of the two others. Nothing like making the most top-heavy division in college football a bit more intriguing. -- David M. Hale

Wake Forest makes a bowl game: Dave Clawson's squad might have kicked off his tenure with back-to-back three-win seasons, but those numbers don’t really tell the story of how much the Demon Deacons progressed from 2014 to 2015. This year, the fruits of the Deacs' labor will show up in the win column, as they return a bigger, stronger nucleus across both sides of the ball and have a much easier schedule than last season (no Notre Dame or North Carolina). Behind the quarterback tandem of John Wolford and Kendall Hinton, Wake will win six games and Clawson will get some coach-of-the-year consideration. -- Matt Fortuna

Clemson and Florida State make the College Football Playoff: No one is quite sure what it will take for a conference to get two teams into the playoff. At least two Power 5 champions and Notre Dame with two losses? Or will it require complete mayhem and a couple of three-loss champions? The Pac-12 road is too tough, and I'm not sure there's a great team in the Big 12 or Big Ten. Ohio State I think is the B1G's best, but inexperience could trip up the Buckeyes. All this leads to an undefeated Clemson or Florida State, with the other an impressive 11-1 and sneaking into the playoff's fourth spot. If the selection committee is adamant about picking the four best teams, these two will be worthy. Dabo Swinney will have his team ready to handle the added pressure, and this is the Seminoles' best team since 2013. -- Jared Shanker