HOT SPRINGS, Va. (AP) – Two players from each Atlantic Coast Conference school got together Sunday for a group picture at the annual media kickoff, and the conversation quickly turned to the new divisional alignments.

There was one slight problem – no one seemed to know where his team fit.

With the ACC finally expanded to its full 12 teams for the upcoming season, the league will split into the Atlantic and Coastal divisions. The winners meet in the first championship game Dec. 3 in Jacksonville, Fla.

“I don’t think anybody knows,” North Carolina quarterback Matt Baker said. “We were all tapping each other on the shoulder and asking. It’s the first year and it’s new, and no one has played each other in the division yet. I think by the end of the season, people will start checking out the standings, and that’s when everybody will know where they are.”

The teams aren’t divided geographically, so that led to the somewhat ambiguous names of the divisions. The conference tried to come up with two equal divisions and started the process by separating longtime powers Florida State and Miami.

Each division has two of the North Carolina schools, and both Virginia and Virginia Tech are in the Coastal with the Hurricanes.

“I think it’s pretty even, everybody has a fair shot,” North Carolina State wide receiver Tramain Hall said. “Whatever team comes out of this deserves to be there, because this ACC is not easy.”

Boston College officially joined the league July 1, ending a bitter split with the Big East and giving the ACC enough teams to qualify for the lucrative championship game. Miami and Virginia Tech started play last season.

The Seminoles had dominated the conference since becoming a member in 1992, finishing with at least a share of first in 11 of the first 12 years. They finished a game behind Virginia Tech a year ago, but equaling that effort might be difficult in 2005.

Already, Florida State has lost cornerback Antonio Cromartie (knee injury) and quarterback Wyatt Sexton (Lyme disease) for the season, and the status of linebackers Ernie Sims and A.J. Nicholson is in doubt after both had run-ins with police.

Sims was arrested following an early morning fight with his live-in girlfriend outside a university residence hall, and Nicholson had a pair or run-ins with local police, including a misdemeanor DWI. Also, defensive lineman Clifton Dickson was declared academically ineligible and must graduate from a community college before he can be readmitted to the university.

“I think we’re the same Florida State,” defensive end Kamerion Wimbley said. “I just think other teams have gotten better in our conference. The only thing that has kept us out of the national championship is a few plays here or there, and if you switch those around, we’d be right back where we’ve always been.”

Whether that’s at the top of the Atlantic division is another question – not that Wimbley knows who the Seminoles have to beat to get there.

“I don’t know everybody that’s in our division, but I do know everybody in the ACC,” he said. “I know the teams that have just joined. But I think as it goes on, everybody will learn who’s in what division.”

While the players struggled with how the conference was broken down, none had any problems with why it was done.

“Bringing in more teams brings in more money,” Virginia Tech defensive end Darryl Tapp said. “I’m in marketing, so I know that.”

AP-ES-07-24-05 1814EDT

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