ACC mailbag: Talking ACC respect, top newcomer, FSU rings

Before you fire up those grills and sparklers, let's take a dive into another installment of the ACC mailbag.

Andrea Adelson: The ACC has gone 7-1 over the past two seasons against its SEC rivals on the final weekend of the regular season. But even those wins are not enough to stop the critics, who have tried to downgrade those victories because they came against the "weak" East. But there is an opportunity to send a message in Week 1, when three of the best teams in the ACC play SEC opponents: Florida State vs. Ole Miss; Clemson at Auburn; North Carolina vs. Georgia. Florida State and Clemson are favored to win; the Tar Heels are a slight underdog, but should have an excellent opportunity to win, too, considering the coaching transition and quarterback uncertainty facing the Bulldogs. A sweep to open the season would deliver a fresh reminder that the ACC has made massive steps in closing the gap.

Andrea Adelson: I am going with Dexter Lawrence at Clemson. I have heard nothing but raves about him from the moment he enrolled early and participated during spring practice. Imagine a defensive line that can play Lawrence inside and Christian Wilkins on the outside among its various (scary) formations. Lawrence might be a true freshman, but he can have a huge impact on that line the way tackle Mitch Hyatt did on the offensive line a year ago.

Adelson: I fully expect Wake Forest to be better this season, but above and beyond the quarterback, it all starts on the offensive line. That group made baby steps a year ago, but still ranks among the bottom tier in the ACC. If they struggle to (again) run the ball (averaged 3 yards per carry, No. 122 nationally in 2015) and protect whomever is playing quarterback (40 sacks allowed in 2015, ranking No. 122), then it doesn't really matter what John Wolford or Kendall Hinton do.

Adelson: I fully expect the offense to be better and really fun to watch, but I have major concerns about the defense because of all the uncertainty up front. The schedule is difficult, too, ranking as the eighth-toughest in the nation. For those reasons, I think Syracuse will fall just short of making a bowl game in 2016. But I am looking forward to seeing what Dino Babers does there.

Andrea Adelson: The fireworks have already started! It's lit!

Enjoy the holiday, everyone.