CLEMSON -- The ACC has been indicted in recent seasons for its lack of competitiveness and its inability to produce national title contenders.

But at the ACC media days last month, coaches and conference officials seemed optimistic the conference is on the way back to relevance.

ESPN apparently thought so in agreeing to a 12-year, $1.8 billion television deal with the conference this spring -- placing the ACC nearly in the same media revenue ballpark as the Southeastern Conference.

On the field, analysts believe the conference should be deeper and more competitive.

Four Coastal Division teams alone, Virginia Tech (No. 6), Miami (13), Georgia Tech (17) and North Carolina (18), are ranked in the preseason coaches' poll.

Florida State, the preseason favorite in the Atlantic Division, and Miami are thought to be on the way back to national relevance -- what the ACC had hoped for when it added Miami earlier this decade.

"It's extremely tough," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said of the ACC. "There are a lot of good teams. In my mind, there is not a weak link. ... You have to be ready to play every Saturday."

Even if the league is deeper, fair or unfair, ACC commissioner John Swofford acknowledges to possess national credibility a power conference needs a national title contender.

The ACC hasn't placed a team in the BCS title game since 1999, and it has never produced a BCS bowl at-large berth.

Virginia Tech is the preseason favorite in the ACC, and resides in some analysts' preseason top 10 lists.

Some ACC coaches think the depth of the league would hurt chances for a title contender to emerge.

"I don't think there is a lot of separation," Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "You better be ready to play."

Others like Boston College coach Fran Spaziani believe the depth of the conference will help produce a national-title contender through competition.

Some include North Carolina, with a defense stacked with future NFL draft picks, and a young and talented Miami team as darkhorse national title contenders.

Defending ACC champ Georgia Tech lost a considerable amount of talent to the NFL, including two first-round draft picks in receiver Demaryius Thomas and defensive end Derrick Morgan. But Yellow Jackets coach Johnson's offense has been efficient since his days at Georgia Southern.

Whether or not the league produces a title contender, there will be plenty of talent on display.

Five ACC quarterbacks are on the Davey O'Brien list for top quarterback in the country. Thirteen defensive players are on the preseason Nagurski list (top defensive player), and 11 players are contenders for the Outland trophy (top interior lineman).

The league office in Greensboro, N.C., hopes those stars make for must-watch television and maybe, just maybe, a chase for a BCS title.

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