After last week’s loss in South Bend, UNC’s record for the year stands at 4-4. A quick look back at the preseason rankings implies that, along with Clemson and Iowa State, the Tarheels are one of this season’s biggest disappointments. But what is the reality?
In retrospect, North Carolina had no business being ranked in the Top 10 at the start of the year. Heck, even Head Coach Mack Brown said so in his press conference after their home loss to FSU. Brown said “The national media expectation, the expectations for us to be a top-10 team were wrong.” So, I guess we should all be critical of the media for picking us that high.”
Media criticisms aside, the challenge ahead in Chapel Hill is not allowing this year to go from disappointing to embarrassing. With four games left, there is only one sure win (Wofford). With road games left at Pitt and N.C. State and this week’s home game against unbeaten Wake Forest, there is a chance the Heels could finish 5-7 and be left out of the bowl picture.
Do we think that will happen? No. There is at least one win in those three games. Shoot, the way this season has gone, Carolina could win all four. But the possibility exists, and there will be pressure on the Heels to finish strong. Will the media turn around and be critical of Brown if the team does finish 5-7 after they talked up UNC as a pre-season dark horse national title contender and promoted QB Sam Howell as a Heisman contender? Based on the past, probably not.
And Brown has Carolina headed in the right direction. This recruiting cycle he has commitments from arguably the best defensive and offensive linemen in this class. It goes to show Mack’s strength as a recruiter that he continues to bring that kind of talent to a program that’s record over the last 4 1/2 years is 24-30.
Still, if the media is going to rate Carolina highly and the recruiting services are going to talk up the level of talent Brown is assembling, eventually the results will have to come. Or the critical discussions will begin.
Maybe things turn around this week. But more on that later as we break out the dartboard to look at this week’s games:
VIRGINIA TECH AT BOSTON COLLEGE: The Eagles were one turnover away from pulling an upset in Death Valley about a month ago. They have followed that loss with three more and have not played well since the first quarter of their home loss to N.C. State. The Hokies stopped their three-game losing streak last week in Atlanta. But as Fearless has taught us, back-to-back road games are tough. Look for an upset in Chestnut Hill this Friday…Boston College 24, Virginia Tech 21.
CLEMSON AT LOUISVILLE: The Tigers covered their first game of the season last weekend against the Noles on a last second fumble return for a touchdown. The reason we point that out is the Tigers are not meeting expectation this year. The Cardinals return home after a loss at N.C. State that was closer than the score indicated. Look for the Louisville QB Malik Cunningham to give the Tigers’ D fits and surprise coach Dabo in this one…. Louisville 28, Clemson 27.
GEORGIA TECH AT MIAMI: The Canes were one of the preseason favorites to win the ACC Coastal. Based on the last two weeks and a quick look at their schedule to close out the year, we think there is a chance the U makes an appearance in the ACC title game. Georgia Tech is still a year away from being a year away. A road game to Coral Gables doesn’t help. Miami’s win streak continues…Miami 35, Georgia Tech 27.
TEMPLE AT EAST CAROLINA: The Pirates need to find two wins in their last four to qualify for a bowl game this year. A home game against the Owls is good for one. Temple is on a three-game losing streak and has not been competitive in any of those games. ECU has significantly improved in coach Mike Houston’s third year in Greenville. Pirates in a blowout…. East Carolina 35, Temple 13.
PITTSBURGH AT DUKE: We talked up the Panthers as the best team in the ACC, and they got upset at home by Miami. The Panthers still control their path to the ACC title game, but may have to go 4-0 to get to Charlotte. A trip to Durham to face the ACC’s worst team is just the thing Pitt QB Kenny Pickett needs to take the first step toward the Queen City. Duke has lost their last two games by a total score of 93-7. More of the same here…. Pittsburgh 42, Duke 14.
N.C. STATE AT FLORIDA STATE: Even though State held the Cards to 13 points in their win last week in Raleigh, Malik Cunningham was able to move Louisville up and down the field. Look for FSU QB Jordan Travis to do the same, with the key being whether or not the Wolfpack D can hold FSU to FG’s and not TD’s. The Pack has won three of the last four in this series, but we think this one ends like N.C. State’s last trip to the Sunshine State. A close one…. Florida State 31, N.C. State 30.
WAKE FOREST AT NORTH CAROLINA: Carolina has a significant edge in talent (at least according to 24/7’s composite recruiting rankings), and the Deacs are giving up 420 yards per game, so Sam Howell should have a field day. But a quick look at the Tarheel defensive stats suggest the WFU QB Sam Hartman should have the same. The only thing we are confident about is the total points in the game will be over 80. A toss up with the slight edge to the home team…North Carolina 42, Wake 41.
OTHER GAMES THIS WEEKEND: Coastal Carolina over Georgia Southern, Appalachian State over Arkansas State, Charlotte over Rice, Texas A&M over Auburn, Alabama over LSU, Georgia over Missouri, Arkansas over Mississippi State, Kentucky over Tennessee, Florida over South Carolina, Ohio State over Nebraska, Baylor over TCU, Iowa State over Texas.
TOFF COMPOSITE TOP TEN: 1. Georgia 2. Alabama 3. Ohio State 4. Oklahoma 5. Cincinnati 6. Michigan State 7. Oregon 8. Notre Dame 9. Michigan 10. Wake Forest.
Southeast Sports Syndicate, 2021.