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1. The carry-over
Every time I start to talk myself into this North Carolina, I realize I'm using the exact same logic with which people have talked themselves into UNC for years: Sleeping Giant™, recruiting rankings, potential, potential, potential. I probably shouldn't go too far down this road without acknowledging that. Still...
So when I post something like this on Twitter...
Putting together next week's previews, and ... guys? UNC might be really good. (Offense and field position, anyway.)— Bill Connelly (@SBN_BillC) June 14, 2014
I expect some of the snarky responses that I receive.
Saying North Carolina could be quite good in 2014 doesn't require any sort of projection or "If..." list or simple "Just look at the recruits they've signed; they have to be good, right?" conjecture. All the Tar Heels have to do to be quite good in 2014 is play like they did for most of the last half of 2013.
The template is laid out for them: Marquise Williams carving out chunks of rushing yards and throwing to Quinshad Davis and Ryan Switzer, T.J. Logan looking like the blue-chipper he was supposed to be on the ground, Switzer breaking big punt returns left and right, and the defense preventing big plays and taking advantage of passing downs.
The Heels were basically 2013's Rice, starting poorly against a front-heavy schedule, waiting until the last moment to improve, then improving dramatically. Like Rice, they return quite a few reasons for last season's improvement. Williams, when he has his head on straight, is electric at quarterback. Davis is a proven quantity, and Switzer was the most stark revelation in the country after November 1. Young guys started living up to recruiting hype almost overnight, and in a road win over Pittsburgh and a bowl decimation of Cincinnati (not to mention an 80-20 win over an Old Dominion team that had stayed within 11 points of Pitt and 14 points of ECU), it was impossible not to get excited about this team's (gulp) potential.
If you want to doubt, though, go ahead.
- Williams served an academics-based suspension last spring and "isn't a practice player," which tends to grate on coaches' patience levels. (Indeed, head coach Larry Fedora announced an open quarterback competition this spring.)
- Davis and Switzer will have to adapt to life without safety-net tight end Eric Ebron, one of the most explosive, unique big men in the country.
- The offensive line must replace two players who started for a combined six seasons.
- The two-man pass rush is now a one-man pass rush.
- Safety Tre Boston, the single most important player for a no-big-plays defense, is now a Carolina Panther.
- And, of course, there have been teases before. Plenty of them. Most recently, UNC won 13 of 17 in 2010 and 2011, then lost seven of 10. The Heels won seven of nine to finish 2012, then lost five of six to start 2013.
Just enough important players left to leave doubt. But if we're looking for nothing but known quantities, UNC might have more of them of any ACC team outside of Florida State or Clemson. When we talk about the Heels, we can't help but use the word "potential." But it doesn't take that many ifs to make UNC a damn strong team in 2014.
2013 Schedule & Results
|Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 12-1 | Final F/+ Rk: 38|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Adj. Score||Adj. W-L||5-gm Adj. Avg.|
|29-Aug||at South Carolina||10||10-27||L||15.9 - 29.3||L|
|7-Sep||Middle Tennessee||85||40-20||W||37.2 - 25.4||W|
|21-Sep||at Georgia Tech||34||20-28||L||31.6 - 22.4||W|
|28-Sep||East Carolina||40||31-55||L||34.7 - 31.1||W|
|5-Oct||at Virginia Tech||27||17-27||L||33.2 - 30.3||W||2.8|
|17-Oct||Miami||36||23-27||L||32.9 - 29.4||W||6.2|
|26-Oct||Boston College||65||34-10||W||29.0 - 13.7||W||6.9|
|2-Nov||at N.C. State||92||27-19||W||29.1 - 25.3||W||5.8|
|9-Nov||Virginia||79||45-14||W||33.7 - 26.2||W||6.6|
|16-Nov||at Pittsburgh||54||34-27||W||25.5 - 21.2||W||6.9|
|23-Nov||Old Dominion||N/A||80-20||W||44.8 - 20.1||W||11.1|
|30-Nov||Duke||41||25-27||L||32.1 - 28.9||W||8.7|
|28-Dec||vs. Cincinnati||64||39-17||W||33.1 - 19.1||W||10.7|
|Points Per Game||32.7||43||24.5||43|
|Adj. Points Per Game||31.8||42||24.8||35|
2. Last-ditch improvement
There are two ways to look at UNC's 2013 campaign.
Angle No. 1: UNC went young in the second half of the season and got better.
- Adj. Points Per Game (first 6 games): UNC 30.9, Opponent 28.0 (plus-2.9)
- Adj. Points Per Game (last 7 games): UNC 32.5, Opponent 22.1 (plus-10.4)
Longtime starting quarterback Bryn Renner was lost for the season after the NC State game, and UNC started Williams (sophomore) and Logan (freshman) in the backfield while giving Switzer (freshman) a more prominent role in the passing game -- 15 of his 32 receptions came in the final four games. After starting the season 1-5, the Heels were still just 3-5 when Williams took the reins, and the offense not only held steady but improved.
Meanwhile, the defense improved a lot. After allowing 5.8 yards per play during UNC's 1-5 start, the D allowed just 4.8 per play during the 6-1 finish.
Of course, there's another way to look at these results.
3. Gotta beat better teams
Angle No. 2: UNC may have gotten better, but the schedule definitely got easier.
If you rearrange the games in order of the opponents' F/+ rankings, you get a pretty different take on the season.
- Actual Points Per Game (vs. Top 50): Opponent 31.8, UNC 21.0 (minus-10.8) (record: 0-6)
- Actual Points Per Game (vs. No. 51+, sans transitioning FBS Old Dominion, an outlier): UNC 36.5, Opponent 17.8 (plus-18.7)
Against teams ranked 41st or better, UNC didn't win. There were plenty of tight losses -- 27-23 to Miami, 27-25 to Duke, 28-20 to Georgia Tech -- but the Heels couldn't get over the hump. They also couldn't keep up with the only top-20 team on the docket (South Carolina). But against lesser teams, they could use their athleticism to dominate. Throw in ODU, and they beat teams ranked 51st or worse by an average score of 43-18.
Both of these angles are true. UNC absolutely fared well against lesser teams, and the schedule just happened to be front-loaded, with five of the Heels' six top-50 opponents showing up in the first six games. But the opponent-adjusted numbers show us that UNC still improved significantly over the last half of the season. The latter gives us reason to believe the Heels will be pretty damn good in 2014; the former gives us pause.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||44.9%||48||Succ. Rt. +||107.7||35|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||27.5||22||Def. FP+||107.5||3|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||4.6||38||Redzone S&P+||99.3||64|
|Q1 Rk||26||1st Down Rk||41|
|Q2 Rk||63||2nd Down Rk||36|
|Q3 Rk||37||3rd Down Rk||42|
Note: players in bold below are 2014 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Marquise Williams||6'2, 215||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||126||217||1698||15||6||58.1%||5||2.3%||7.5|
|Kanler Coker||6'4, 215||So.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Mitch Trubisky||6'3, 210||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Caleb Henderson||6'3, 220||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
4. All Williams needed was an opportunity
Marquise Williams has spent a decent portion of his UNC career getting in his own way. Heading into a 2013 season in which he was expected to serve as Bryn Renner's primary backup, Williams had to serve a semester-long academics suspension and missed spring ball. Still, the No. 2 job was his in the fall, and when Renner's career ended early because of a shoulder injury, Williams stepped in and did well.
His passing was hit-or-miss if you take out a nearly perfect performance against an overwhelmed Old Dominion defense (20-for-27, 409 yards, five touchdowns), but it was good enough to prevent opponents from keying on the run game, which thrived with Williams behind center. In the last four games of the season, Williams rushed 45 times for 289 yards and four touchdowns, while T.J. Logan added 55 carries for 361 yards and three scores. With minimal margin for error, Williams guided the Heels toward bowl eligibility. In what ended up being a must-win at Pitt, he led the Heels to four scores in five possessions and helped to build a big lead before stalling late. (UNC went up 27-3, Pitt scored 24 straight, and Ryan Switzer bailed the Heels out with his second punt return touchdown of the game with 4:46 left.)
Williams' accomplishment -- going from untested understudy to starter and preventing a dropoff -- was impressive, but his numbers are far from unimpeachable. And it does appear he'll have to continue fending off redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky (and himself) in the fall to keep his job. But UNC's potential with Williams behind center is clear.
|Marquise Williams||QB||6'2, 215||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||106||560||6||5.3||3.8||43.4%|
|T.J. Logan||RB||5'10, 180||So.||4 stars (6.0)||93||533||4||5.7||3.4||53.8%|
|Romar Morris||RB||5'10, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||69||296||5||4.3||4.9||34.8%|
|Khris Francis||RB||5'9, 195||So.||3 stars (5.5)||63||236||1||3.7||3.3||30.2%|
|Ryan Switzer||WR||5'10, 175||So.||3 stars (5.7)||10||29||0||2.9||1.9||40.0%|
|Charles Brunson||RB||6'0, 200||Jr.||NR||9||58||0||6.4||7.0||44.4%|
|Elijah Hood||RB||6'0, 220||Fr.||5 stars (6.1)|
|Quinshad Davis||WR||6'4, 205||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||69||48||730||69.6%||15.9%||62.9%||10.6||171||10.0||101.5|
|Ryan Switzer||WR||5'10, 175||So.||3 stars (5.7)||43||32||341||74.4%||9.9%||80.6%||7.9||-20||10.3||47.4|
|Bug Howard||WR||6'4, 195||So.||3 stars (5.6)||37||22||278||59.5%||8.5%||45.8%||7.5||0||8.4||38.7|
|T.J. Thorpe||WR||6'0, 200||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||33||24||267||72.7%||7.6%||50.0%||8.1||-7||8.8||37.1|
|Jack Tabb||TE||6'3, 240||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||20||7||119||35.0%||4.6%||58.8%||6.0||-2||6.3||16.5|
|Romar Morris||RB||5'10, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||18||12||63||66.7%||4.2%||35.3%||3.5||-80||3.9||8.8|
|T.J. Logan||RB||5'10, 180||So.||4 stars (6.0)||17||10||124||58.8%||3.9%||38.5%||7.3||-3||7.9||17.2|
|Khris Francis||RB||5'9, 195||So.||3 stars (5.5)||12||11||82||91.7%||2.8%||50.0%||6.8||-31||7.2||11.4|
|Kendrick Singleton||WR||6'2, 200||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||11||6||66||54.5%||2.5%||80.0%||6.0||-13||5.9||9.2|
|Mark McNeill||WR||6'4, 215||Sr.||NR||9||6||107||66.7%||2.1%||28.6%||11.9||36||10.5||14.9|
|Damien Washington||WR||6'1, 180||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Brandon Fritts||TE||6'4, 215||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Devin Perry||WR||6'2, 185||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Avery Edwards||TE||6'5, 230||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)|
5. Ryan Switzer, receiver
By the end of the season, few receiving duos had accomplished more than Eric Ebron and Quinshad Davis. Ebron's elite athleticism made him a first-round draft pick; he caught 112 passes for 1,805 yards (16.1 per catch) and eight touchdowns in his career. And in just two years, Davis has caught 109 balls for 1,506 yards and 15 scores. Both players averaged better than 10.0 yards per target in 2013 despite shuffling at quarterback.
With Ebron now preparing for his first season with the Detroit Lions, Davis needs a new dance partner. Granted, nobody in the UNC receiving corps is going to be capable of producing the same matchup advantages and size-to-explosiveness ratio as Ebron, but quality is quality, and UNC will need a little more of it.
Enter Ryan Switzer. While Johnathan Howard, also a freshman in 2013, had some promising moments (seven catches for 105 yards against N.C. State and Virginia), Switzer broke out late in the season. Granted, that was more because of his otherworldly run of punt returns (five touchdowns, all after November 8), he became a threat in the passing game as well. After catching just 17 passes for 126 yards through nine games, he caught 15 for 215 and two touchdowns in the final four. When people talk about the proverbial lightbulb coming on for freshmen, they have Switzer's explosion in mind.
Switzer is already part of the most potent 1-2 punch in the country when it comes to special teams -- he and punter Tommy Hibbard are dominant field position weapons -- but if Switzer can also become a reliable No. 2 man in the receiving corps, everything else falls into place nicely. Davis is a proven No. 1, and players like Howard, T.J. Thorpe and perhaps incoming freshman Devin Perry can play complementary roles. Plus, senior tight end Jack Tabb showed at least a little bit of big play ability in 2013.
There are options here, as long as somebody becomes a dependable No. 2.
|James Hurst||LT||49||1st All-ACC|
|Landon Turner||RG||6'4, 320||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||17|
|Jon Heck||RT||6'6, 300||So.||3 stars (5.5)||13|
|Caleb Peterson||LG||6'5, 300||So.||3 stars (5.7)||12|
|Kiaro Holts||RT||6'4, 295||Jr.||4 stars (5.8)||1|
|Will Dancy||LG||6'4, 295||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0|
|J.J. Patterson||LG||6'4, 310||So.||4 stars (5.8)||0|
|Lucas Crowley||C||6'3, 270||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0|
|John Ferranto||LT||6'5, 290||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0|
|R.J. Prince||LT||6'6, 310||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Brad Henson||RG||6'5, 295||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Bentley Spain||LT||6'6, 285||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Jared Cohen||OL||6'4, 295||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Josh Allen||OL||6'3, 285||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)|
6. Keeping defenders out of the backfield
UNC's offensive line did its job in 2013. It maintained solid sack rates despite the late-season insertion of a dual-threat quarterback (dual-threats have the nasty tendency to take a ton of sacks), and while its run numbers as a whole were no more than slightly above average, it kept defenders out of the backfield, ranking 31st in Stuff Rate. Even if you're not generating tons of opportunities upfield, and even if you struggle in short-yardage situations (as UNC did in 2013), if you keep defenders from making tackles for loss and moving you backwards, you can maintain a pretty efficient offense. UNC had that in 2013, and it could again, but only if the Heels successfully replace tackle James Hurst and center Russell Bodine, who combined for 76 career starts.
UNC has recruited well up front and still returns four players who have combined for 43 career starts. And in all, returning three starters signifies solid continuity. But Hurst in particular was really good, and a dropoff is at least conceivable.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||42.2%||58||Succ. Rt. +||103.5||45|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||29.4||85||Off. FP+||98.5||77|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Trip in 40||3.9||33||Redzone S&P+||113.3||22|
|Q1 Rk||37||1st Down Rk||46|
|Q2 Rk||21||2nd Down Rk||15|
|Q3 Rk||55||3rd Down Rk||33|
7. Opponents knew to run
UNC's 2013 defense was basically good at three things: rushing the passer, preventing big plays, and stiffening near the end zone. Hey, if you can only be good at three things, that's a pretty decent list. But the run defense was a bit of a problem, and opponents knew it. UNC faced a heavy dose of rushing, especially on standard downs; opponents rushed 66.6 percent of the time on standard downs against the Heels, seventh most in the country. (Two of the teams above them on the list -- Army and Air Force -- played at least two flexbone teams, while UNC played only one: Georgia Tech.)
Now, the ACC was a relatively run-heavy league -- Florida State faced 66.1 percent runs on standard downs (eighth), Clemson 64.9 percent (13th), etc. But UNC still faced a higher percentage than anybody else in the league, and it wasn't hard to see why. Injuries thinned out the front four a big, and the size of ends like Nortkeithus Otis and Junior Gnonkonde wasn't exactly a run deterrent. Plus, passing wasn't the safest proposition.
With Kareem Martin, the only end with decent size, gone, it's hard to see opponents choosing against the run this time around either. But as with last year, UNC should have pretty good linebacker play, and that should at least help to prevent big plays, even if efficiency is still an issue.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Norkeithus Otis||BANDIT||6'1, 240||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||13||43.0||5.4%||14.0||8.5||1||2||3||0|
|Ethan Farmer||NT||6'3, 295||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||13||19.5||2.5%||2.5||0.0||0||0||1||0|
|Junior Gnonkonde||DE||6'4, 240||So.||3 stars (5.7)||13||18.0||2.3%||0.0||0.0||0||2||1||0|
|Justin Thomason||DT||6'4, 265||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||13||14.5||1.8%||1.5||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Devonte Brown||DT||6'3, 280||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||11||8.0||1.0%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Shakeel Rashad||BANDIT||6'2, 245||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||5||7.0||0.9%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Mikey Bart||BANDIT||6'3, 245||So.||3 stars (5.5)||8||6.5||0.8%||1.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Shawn Underwood||NT||6'1, 305||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||9||6.0||0.8%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||1|
|Jessie Rogers||DE||6'4, 260||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||12||3.0||0.4%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Greg Webb||NT||6'2, 310||RSFr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Dajaun Drennon||DE||6'4, 230||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Nazair Jones||DT||6'5, 250||RSFr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Robert Dinkins||DE||6'2, 235||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)|
8. Otis needs a bandmate
UNC ranked 20th in Adj. Sack Rate, which was impressive considering only two players managed more than 2.5 sacks. Martin and Otis combined for 20 sacks, six forced fumbles, and six passes defensed; once opponents were leveraged into passing downs (which sometimes took a while), these two wrecked shop.
Now Martin's gone, and Otis needs a new complement. Gnonkonde didn't do much damage in a backup role last year, so the Heels might have to turn to Shakeel Rashad or youngsters like Mikey Bart, Dajuan Drennon, and freshman Robert Dinkins. Or they'll have to blitz more. If the pass rush suffers and the run defense fails to improve, that is, shall we say, problematic.
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Jeff Schoettmer||MIKE||6'1, 220||Jr.||NR||13||65.5||8.3%||4.5||0.5||0||3||0||0|
|Travis Hughes||WILL||6'2, 225||Sr.||4 stars (5.8)||12||58.0||7.3%||5.5||1.0||0||1||0||0|
|Darius Lipford||MIKE||6'3, 245||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||10||24.0||3.0%||6.0||2.5||0||1||0||0|
|Nathan Staub||MIKE||6'2, 240||So.||3 stars (5.5)||8||14.5||1.8%||2.0||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|Jack Tabb||WILL||6'3, 240||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||11||9.0||1.1%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Dan Mastromatteo||MIKE||6'2, 230||So.||3 stars (5.6)||7||2.0||0.3%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Joe Jackson||WILL||6'2, 210||So.||3 stars (5.6)|
|Tyrell Tomlin||LB||6'0, 220||Fr.||4 stars (5.8)|
|Cayson Collins||LB||6'1, 215||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)|
|Rivals||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Dominique Green||SS||5'11, 185||So.||NR||13||46.5||5.9%||1.5||0||3||5||0||0|
|Tim Scott||FS||5'11, 190||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||13||43.0||5.4%||2||1||2||3||0||0|
|Malik Simmons||RAM||5'11, 190||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||13||39.0||4.9%||2||0||0||1||0||0|
|Brian Walker||CB||5'11, 175||So.||3 stars (5.7)||13||19.5||2.5%||0||0||1||6||0||0|
|Sam Smiley (2012)||FS||5'11, 185||Jr.||2 stars (5.3)||7||19.0||2.6%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Darien Rankin||SS||5'11, 200||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||10||10.5||1.3%||0||0||1||1||0||0|
|T.J. Jiles||CB||5'11, 165||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||12||9.5||1.2%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Alex Dixon||CB||6'0, 185||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||13||8.5||1.1%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Desmond Lawrence||CB||6'1, 175||So.||3 stars (5.7)||8||7.0||0.9%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Damien Washington||S||6'1, 180||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||13||4.5||0.6%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Ryan Mangum||RAM||6'0, 195||Jr.||NR||13||2.0||0.3%||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Kameron Jackson||FS||5'11, 190||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)|
|Donnie Miles||RAM||5'11, 200||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)|
|M.J. Stewart||DB||5'11, 190||Fr.||3 stars (5.7)|
9. Replacing Tre
Let's play Optimist vs. Pessimist. An optimist sees Otis back, along with every linebacker of consequence and a pair of safeties (Dominique Green and Tim Scott) who combined for 13 passes defensed and 3.5 tackles for loss. An optimist also sees corner Brian Walker, who made some plays as a freshman, and stellar experience at defensive tackle.
A pessimist sees the loss of Martin as a killer up front. A pessimist also sees the loss of Tre Boston as a deal-breaker. If UNC relied on big-play prevention to eventually make stops, and if the Heels lose their single best reason for big-play prevention, that's an issue, right? Green, Scott, and Malik Simmons give the Heels experience at safety, as does the return of safety Sam Smiley from injury. But Boston and Jabari Price still combined for nine tackles for loss and 22 passes defensed, and as a whole UNC hasn't recruited as well in the defensive backfield as it has in other positions. You lose that level of play-making abilty, and you don't necessarily get it back.
|Tommy Hibbard||5'10, 190||Sr.||65||43.0||6||12||25||56.9%|
|Nick Weiler||6'0, 195||Jr.||67||62.9||19||1||28.4%|
|Thomas Moore||5'10, 200||Sr.||14||61.4||4||0||28.6%|
|Thomas Moore||5'10, 200||Sr.||46-48||13-14||92.9%||1-5||20.0%|
|T.J. Thorpe||KR||6'0, 200||Jr.||20||21.2||0|
|T.J. Logan||KR||5'10, 180||So.||19||26.9||2|
|Ryan Switzer||PR||5'10, 175||So.||24||20.9||5|
|T.J. Thorpe||PR||6'0, 200||Jr.||5||8.4||0|
|Special Teams F/+||48|
|Field Goal Efficiency||114|
|Punt Return Efficiency||8|
|Kick Return Efficiency||100|
|Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency||94|
2014 Schedule & Projection Factors
|6-Sep||San Diego State||81|
|20-Sep||at East Carolina||57|
|11-Oct||at Notre Dame||25|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||8.2% (37)|
|Two-Year Recruiting Rk||31|
|TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin*||3 / 5.8|
|Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.)||15 (8, 7)|
10. 9/27 to 10/11
Larry Fedora has what a lot of UNC coaches have had in recent history: a team loaded with potential. And it's technically not fair to lump Fedora in with previous disappointments; he hasn't been around long enough. But his 2014 Heels have just enough question marks to scare you away from committing to a team that has a lot of exciting young pieces.
There's good news, however.
- We don't have to wait long to find out what UNC will be in 2014. After a tricky road trip to face ECU on September 20, the Heels embark on one hell of a three-game stretch: at Clemson, Virginia Tech, at Notre Dame. UNC could be 2-4 or 5-1 when Georgia Tech comes to town on October 18. Needless to say, the stories will be writing themselves at that point either way.
- Whatever UNC is in 2014, it will probably improve in 2015, when (in theory) Williams, Switzer, Logan, Davis, and perhaps the entire starting offensive line return, along with up to seven or eight defensive starters. (So if you're hesitant to jump on the bandwagon, know you'll have another opportunity in 12 months.)
Eventually, we all get seduced by UNC's Sleeping Giant™ potential. I'm trying as hard as I can not to succumb, but it's getting difficult.