ACC sleeper picks: Teams, players

Tar Heels primed for breakout season; Gardner ready to replace All-American

Originally Published: July 16, 2014
By Ryan McGee | ESPN Insider

WilliamsBob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsNorth Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams threw for 1,698 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.

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The ACC provided perhaps the biggest sleeper of the them all in 2013, when Jameis "Not Yet Famous" Winston took a team that was picked to finish second in the Atlantic Division (with a scant 18 first-place votes to Clemson's 102) to the top of the stage in the BCS Championship. The team the Noles defeated in the conference championship game, Duke, was perhaps the best feel-good story in all of college football last fall.

So, who has the best chance of making the ACC's next dark-horse run? Here are the two team candidates, as well as a pair of possible breakout players.


Which teams are set to surprise next season?

North Carolina Tar Heels

These are not happy times in Chapel Hill, thanks to an academic scandal investigation that won't go away. Neither will memories of a nightmare start to the 2013 college football season, a 1-5 stumble that started with a worse-than-the-score, 27-10 loss at border rival South Carolina and included an embarrassing 55-31 drubbing by redheaded stepchild East Carolina. But perpetually caffeinated coach Larry Fedora salvaged his second season by winning six of the last seven games, including a bowl win over Cincinnati, to finish with a winning record.

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