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North Carolina


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North Carolina fans are still wondering why 2016 didn’t go better than an 8-5 record. The Tar Heels had the No. 2 QB in the NFL Draft, Mitchell Trubisky (30 TDs, 6 INTs), and the defense improved to allow just 24.9 points per game. But while the Tar Heels won some nice games at FSU and Miami, they also fell to Duke and NC State late in the season. With Trubisky gone as well as some key skill players, it’s hard to see Larry Fedora’s team improving.

There doesn’t appear to be a firm answer at quarterback with LSU transfer Brandon Harris the most experienced option. That doesn't mean much after he struggled through his time with LSU, completing just 53.8% of his passes for 13 TDs and 6 INTs back in 2015. Otherwise, the Heels don’t have anyone else with collegiate experience, so Harris has the leg up. It’s the same situation at running back with Jordon Brown expected to step up after just 20 carries for 45 yards last season. He’s joined by Stanton Truitt and Michael Carter, among others. Unfortunately, it’s also the same case at receiver with Austin Proehl (597 yards, 3 TDs) the only relevant returning piece from the passing game. With so many new faces, it’s almost a guarantee this group isn’t as good and will have trouble reaching 30 points per game (32.3 in 2016). It doesn’t help that the offensive line is in the same situation, as well.

Defensively, UNC has always been a mediocre group and for this team to reach eight wins or maybe just a bowl game, it’ll have to be better. The good news is that the defense has more pieces returning and that starts with linebackers Andre Smith and Cole Holcomb leading the way. It also helps that corner M.J. Stewart and safety Donnie Miles returned for their senior seasons. The hope is that new coordinator John Papuchis can add another element to the unit after being linebackers coach the past couple years and formerly the coordinator at Nebraska.

We’ll get to see early on just what the UNC defense can do with tests against Cal and Louisville right off the bat. Against a couple high-flying offenses, it could be trouble for the Tar Heels if they want to keep up. A trip to Old Dominion doesn’t help either with that being an underrated, yet difficult game To reach six wins, the Heels will likely have to steal a win or two on the road against GT, Pitt or NC State. Otherwise, they’ll be banking on winning all of their home games, which includes contests against Notre Dame and Miami.

The Tar Heels were at +4400 in the spring (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) to win the ACC, which puts them in fifth place in the Coastal division and that’s all that needs to be said. With so many new players on offense and a defense that can’t win games by itself, UNC could struggle to six or seven wins this season.


2017 North Carolina Tar Heels Football Schedule

Sept. 2 vs. California
Sept. 9 vs. Louisville
Sept. 16 at Old Dominion
Sept. 23 vs. Duke

Sept. 30 at Georgia Tech
Oct. 7 vs. Notre Dame
Oct. 14 vs. Virginia

Oct. 21 at Virginia Tech
Oct. 28 vs. Miami
Nov. 9 at Pittsburgh
Nov. 18 vs. Western Carolina
Nov. 25 at NC State

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