UNC 20, Virginia Tech 17: The Serious Post

Frankly, Virginia Tech, we’re just as surprised as you are. After the horrible month that the Heels had, there was almost nothing to indicate that we would be able to execute well enough to beat perhaps our toughest opponent of the season on the road. There were only three indications that we stood a chance:

1. Carolina has played the Hokies close each of the last two years, and neither the Heels nor Tech were markedly different from the 2007 and 2008 editions.

2. The Heels have a fantastic defense, and Virginia Tech’s offense has struggled consistently. If the front could keep Ryan Williams in check, the offense might have a chance.

3. This is the ACC; whatever the most bizarre result might be, tends to be what happens.

So, in spite of what might be the worst interception you’ll see all year, the perfect storm happened. The defense shut out the Hokies for two quarters, and had Tyrod Taylor fumbled three inches sooner it would have been three quarters. Somehow, someway, John Shoop and the UNC offense put together two creative and well-executed touchdown drives in the second and third quarters. The team had the guts to go for it on 4th and 7 with five minutes left in the game, and they converted with a big pass play up the middle to set up the game-tying field goal.

The fumble was just a big break, and the Heels were able to take advantage. Like many UNC fans, I thought the game was lost after the pick. But the team did an excellent job of not allowing a bad break to affect the rest of the game.

This was the game I thought Carolina was most likely to lose, and the 0-3 start in the ACC did nothing to quell those fears. After this game, the rest of the season is looking a lot less gloomy. On to Duke.

Some Last Minute Thoughts on Florida State

A few reasons why this game is so important for UNC.

1. For Bowl Aspriations. With two FCS opponents on our schedule, the Heels need to finish 7-5 or better to be bowl eligible. After the opening two performances in conference, that task is looking a lot harder. A win here will build momentum in the right direction, while a loss coupled with next Thursday’s game in Blacksburg could send Carolina into a freefall.

2. Because Florida State’s defense is bad. As stated in Tomahawk Nation’s excellent and relentless coverage, Florida State defense ranks 101st in the nation, and pass defense is their particular soft adng ooey center. If there’s a game to get the offense on track, this is it.

3. Because everyone’s watching. For the next two weeks the heels are going to get exclusive or near-exclusive primetime coverage against big-name teams (even if FSU is 2-4). Good performances could not only propel us to 6-2, but bolster our standing in the ever-growing college football jungle.

4. Because of what Florida State has done here. The Seminoles’ last trip to Kenan Stadium in 2003 ended in 37-0 thrashing that remains one of the worst team performances I have seen in person. And I saw the 1999 Houston game. Perhaps even more enraging was their visit on November 8, 1997, still the most vividly hyped UNC football game in my lifetime. 9 hours before the game, and it was already like a rock concert at Kenan. With a win, UNC put themselves into the National Championship discussion. Then Thad Bleeping Busby had to kill the mood and the Noles won 20-3.

An then there was my first UNC game ever, the 1995 FSU game. It rained, extra points were blocked, Seminole fans were at the peak of their vintage bravado, and the kept playing that damn song over and over. Needless to say, this did not leave a good impression on an 8 year old boy. So yeah, we really don’t care much for Florida State.

5. To finish what we started. UNC’s lone win against Florida State was perhaps my favortie game ever as a UNC fan. The Heels are 0-3 in 2001 after taking beatings at Oklahoma, Maryland, and Texas. Then after 9/11, the SMU game was rescheduled and our home opener was…Florida State. Most fans, myself included, expected the worst. To everyone’s delight, UNC won by a score of 41-9 in perhaps the most satisfyingly dominant performance by the Heels I have ever seen. Before that game Bobby Bowden had lost only 2 ACC games in 10 seasons. in the 8 and a half seasons since, his teams have lost 24. A loss tonight, and a 2-5 start, could be the final hook that pulls Bobby off the stage.

Really, the last three only matter to fans, but it’s fun to put those thoughts to paper. So yeah…no pressure, guys.

Your Encouraging Statistic 48 Hours Before the Florida State Game

Using the sheer, awesome power of science, we are about to prove why UNC is going to beat Florida State Thursday night.

FACT! Both of UNC’s losses were noon games on Raycom.

FACT! UNC’s near-loss to UConn was also a noon game on ESPNU.

FACT! This game will be played at night on ESPN.

FACT! Florida State has incurred all four of their losses this season on the ESPN family of networks. Their ideal TV network: Versus

THEREFORE! We’ve got this game in the bag. It’s science!

(On a bummer tangent, there is only one word to accurately describe the death of Jasper Howard: sad.)

Virginia 16, UNC 3: Tar Heel Mania Is a Sad Panda

UNC is now 7-20-1 against UVa in the Welsh era.

There is no positive way to spin this. We lost at home to a team who lost at home to William & Mary.

Against BCS teams we are averaging less than 200 yards of offense per game.The offensive line is decimated, the wide receivers are still green, and John Shoop hasn’t changed up anything. At all.As bad as T.J. Yates has played, Dave Shinskie is in a better offensive situation than he is. And that’s saying a lot.

If the situation does not change–and there is very little indication that it will–missing out on a bowl is a very real possibility.

Considering what the preseason aspirations were, it’s very difficult to face the truth: despite talented players and a good defense, Carolina is a bad team right now.

And that makes me a sad, sad panda.

ACC Roundtable: Conference Paranoia Edition

It’s that time of the week again, time for an ACC fan to be picked at random, ask questions, and have even more random ACC fans answer them. This week’s ACC Roundtable is from BC Interruption.

Now that most ACC teams’ non-conference schedules are winding down and we are starting league play, it’s time to take the vitals of the ACC’s play in non-conference action. Here is how the ACC fared against the rest of college football through 4 weeks (based on my back-of-the-envelope math):

BCS Conference Record Win Pct.
vs. Big East 2-2 .500
vs. Pac 10 1-1 .500
vs. Big XII 1-2 .333
vs. SEC 0-2 .000
The Rest Record Win Pct.
vs. MAC 1-0 1.000
vs. I-A Indep. aka Army 1-0 1.000
vs. Conference USA 2-1 .666
vs. Sun Belt 1-1 .500
vs. Mountain West 1-2 .333
vs. FCS I-AA 9-2 .818
Overall 19-13 .593

Comment on your team’s (if applicable, sorry Miami) and the conference’s non-conference performance through 4 weeks. As a conference, what head-to-head record against another conference stands out to you most?

Carolina is going to go 4-0 for the out of conference slate. That’s pretty good, but considering the four opponents (Citadel, UConn, ECU, Ga. Southern) any loss other than the UConn game would have been disastrous. As for the conference, it doesn’t look good. Even if you take Bird GT’s point and take off Duke, Virginia and Maryland’s 2-8 record, you also have to eliminate the 7 other FCS wins from the other 9 teams in the conference. The top 9 ACC teams have a record of 10-5 against FBS competition. It’s okay, but aside from Florida State’s win in Provo, no one has beaten a particularly good OOC team. In essence, we’ve learned nothing.

(Because we like to fan the ACC vs. Big East flames …) The only BCS conferences the ACC has a .500 record against so far this year is the Big East (4 games) and the Pac-10 (2 games). Yikes. In a weekend where 2 of 3 Big East teams knocked off ACC teams, we have to ask. The ACC is still > Big East, right? Right??

You’re not having any second thoughts about moving to the ACC, are ya? ‘Cause that’s mutiny.

Let me put it this way. Imagine this raw chicken is Tony Pike, star quarterback of Cincinnati, potential Heisman candidate and best offensive player in the Big East. Imagine that the 80s metal band Dokken is any ACC defense he would face in the Orange Bowl.

That is to say: I’m not worried about where we stand against the Big East. (thrusts hips, incinerates Greg Paulus)

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is losing to a CAA team and 10 is getting the ACC some much needed street cred by winning the BCS MNC, how satisfied are you with your AD’s non-conference scheduling this year? With the non-conference opponents your program has lined up over the next few years, will you be more or less satisfied?

I’m not very satisfied with UNC’s scheduling in 2009, if only because having two FCS teams on the schedule benefits absolutely no one. The good news is that UNC is playing SEC teams each of the next four seasons, including LSU next year. So that’s nice.

Last one, ESPN’s College GameDay is heading to Chestnut Hill this week for Florida State (2-2) at Boston College (3-1). Both teams are unranked. Parts of the blogosphere are going completely ape s**t over the WWL’s selection. Justify the selection (if you can). If not, tell us why you dislike the selection.

Honestly, I don’t know how to properly answer that question. Allow me to ignore it and post a picture of funny-looking Italian man instead.

Considering We’re Only Hours From The Georgia Tech Game…

…we should probably preview Georgia Tech.

beesThis is Georgia Tech at 11:59 EDT today.

Let’s get this out of the way. Both offenses are probably going to lose the battle at the line of scrimmage. Georgia Tech’s offensive line is too small compared to Carolina’s DTs, and the Heels O-line is so banged up that Shaun Draughn will have Derrick Morgan nightmares tonight. Morgan would probably have found his way into the backfield no matter what, but you get my point.

It’s not going to be pretty unless either team can develop the passing game. Tech, of course, will be focusing on this for most of the game after being torched by Kyle Parker and Jacory Harris in their last two matchups.  UNC clearly has the air advantage, especially after Erik Highsmith has been an absolute revelation at wide receiver. Coming into Spring practice, he the #6 WR option at best; now he’s on pace to put up Hakeem Nicks numbers. When Georgia Tech has the ball, if Josh Nesbitt isn’t throwing it to Dermaryius Thomas, he’s not throwing it. I’m not kidding; the rest of the team has caught exactly three passes from him all season.

Not all hope is lost for the offensive lines. Both lines know their weaknesses, and intend to diminish them somewhat. UNC is going to use a lot of play action and waggle passes, and while the Tech line is smaller than others, they are more nimble by the nature of the offense Tech runs. How well they are able to hold their ground at the point of attack will be the difference in this game.

And therein lies Tech’s biggest problem. The point of the option offense is to have as many points of attack available as possible, so that the defense has to account for them all and eventually a seam opens up. UNC has some of the fastest linebackers in the country in Bruce Carter, Zach Brown and LORD QUANTAVIUS, and they’ll have been coached to stay at home no matter what.

I don’t have much confidence in UNC’s offense today. Paul Johnson is really going to have his team fired up, and playing well on the road is always tough. I think, however, that the Heels defense will give the offense just enough room for error to leave Atlanta with the victory.

beesonfireThis is Georgia Tech at 3:15 EDT today.

Prediction: UNC 17, Georgia Tech 12.

For more about the Yellow Jackets, check out the excellent Tech blog From The Rumble Seat.

Tar Heel Mania + Norman Einsteins = Marvin Austin Jokes

As I type this we are less than 48 hours away from the start of college football. After a long trek through the desert, the oasis is nigh. The Norman Einsteins have assembled quite a satirical college football preview this week, and I was given the opportunity to provide a look into the future, through the eyes of defensive tackle/enigma/possible alien Marvin Austin during the Virginia Tech game. Go down toward the bottom of the page to view my part, but really read the whole thing. It’s just a giant bundle of awesome. Not unlike Mr. Austin himself.

bewareofawesome

On Preseason Expectations and…Such.

I’m an optimist. I believe that, no matter how much civilization will try to screw things up, it will always prevail. If a nuclear winter hits, my first thought will be “Is my family okay?” and my second will be “at least we’re rid of that damn kudzu infestation”. I find it a waste of time to dwell on glass-half-empty emotions.

And yet, even I wonder of the hyperbole surrounding the 2009 Heels football team may be a bit much.

UNC ranked #20 in the AP Poll: WHOOOOOOOO!!! I was wondering if we’d make the poll. 16-25 is where most of the “speculation” teams go, and I think we’re one of the better speculative teams out there. So yeah, fair enough.

UNC ranked #16 on the NBC Sports Poll: Okay, now we’re pushing it. If you’re basing your poll on on our schedule and what our record might look like in December, then okay. But if you think that the Heels are the 16th best team out there…I just don’t see it. There are too many questions, and we won;t have enough answers until at least September 26th when UNC visits Atlanta.

Shaun Draughn on the Doak Walker Award Watch List: WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATTTTTTT

now, this isn’t to say that Shaun Draughn isn’t a good back: he is. Nor is it to say that the Doak Walker people shouldn’t cover as many bases as possible (although why do they need a list this early?). But this is a bit much. I only see three backs getting Award-type numbers: Jonathan Dwyer, C.J. Spiller, and Darren Evans. Those players have one benefit in common: the offense is geared specifically to them, or any player in the same position. UNC runs a pro-style offense, which places more emphasis on the pass that Georgia Tech or Virginia Tech will for an entire season. Also none of these players have competition at the position. Ryan Houston will take quite a few carries, including short yardage touchdowns. Adding Jamal Womble into the RB mix could shrink Draughn’s numbers even further. Even if Draughn plays exceptionally well under this system, the offense that Butch Davis and John Shoop want to run will prevent him from getting the gaudy numbers he needs to win the award.

To put it simply: it’s not gonna happen. (Of course, I’m not sure a Tar Heel wants to receive anything bearing Doak Walker’s name; CHOO CHOOWUZ ROBBED !!!)

I’m a huge fan of outlandish expectations; I dream of an 11-1 season in 2009, even though the back of my mind tells me that dream will be crushed by October 30th. It’s just that after 9 years under the Iron Mustache Curtain (dear leaders Torbush and Bunting), I don’t expect outsiders to be every bit as pie-in-the-sky about Carolina football as I am. In an Allegory of the Cave sort of way, it’s shocking. But hey, I’m out into the light and there’s a beautiful hillside waiting for me ahead.

Until the storms come in couple of months, of course.

ACC PREDICTIONS PREDICTIONS PREDICTIONS!

VT blog Gobbler Country and Furrier4Heisman held a preseason conference poll among ACC bloggers and was kind enough to invite my opinion, despite my recent sporadic-ness-ness-ness. (I will save the explanation for another time, but for now I’ll say life got in the way.) Anyway, here were may predictions:

Atlantic Division

1. Florida State

2. NC State

3. Clemson

4. Wake Forest

5. Maryland

6. Boston College

Florida State has the talent, eventually they have to pull it together, right? State is a team on the rise despite the (temporary?) loss of Nate Irving. I sincerely hope he comes back to haunt running backs’ dreams again…just not our backs. Clemson is still talented, but we don’t know how consistent they are. Wake Forest will take a step back on defense, the key to their success the last three years. Boston College is squarely in rebuilding mode after all they’ve lost.

Coastal Division

1. Virginia Tech

2. Georgia Tech

3. North Carolina

4. Miami

5. Virginia

6. Duke

Last year was the time to pounce on the Coastal Division and step up in Virginia Tech’s rebuilding year. That window is now closed, and now anyone who wants to win this division must go through the Hokies. Georgia Tech’s Success will depend on whether their triple option stand the test of a team getting a second look. I actually predicted that North Carolina can finish as well as 10-2, but they have to beat one or both of the Techs on the road in order to win the division; honestly, I don;t think this team is ready. Miami still needs to show consistency to be placed higher than fourth. Virginia lose too many important players from 2008 and Duke is, well, Duke.

Offensive Player of the Year: Darren Evans, Virginia Tech

Partly because he’s very good and partly to be contrarian. How Gobbler Country let me get away with calling him “Darrell Evans” in the email I sent him, I’ll never know.

Defensive Player of the Year: QUANTAVIUS THE MAGNIFICENT, UNC.

I have never been more confident of a prediction in my entire life. Ever.

Rookie of the Year: Josh Adams, UNC.

Not knowing much (read: anything about other rookies in the ACC, I decided to stick to what I know. Judging by the pairty in voting in this category, everyone else voted the same way. I think Jamal Womble will have a bigger impact, but I have a hunch Adams will have better stats.

Thanks again to Gobbler Country for holding this poll.

Super Speedy UNC Spring Football Review

The offseason is a tremendous lull for most sports, but we Americans have found out that if you poke at football long enough during hibernation, you can find something to talk about. So let’s all grab a stick, shall we?

Players Who Should Get You Really, Really Excited for September

WR Dwight Jones: Will burning the redshirt last November pay off? For the moment, the answer is yes. Jones, the man in the center of that practice photo, has developed rapidly since the 2008 season, and while he certainly hasn’t reached Hakeem Nicks-levels of route running, he doesn’t have to. The projected top 3 receivers (Jones, Greg Little and Josh Adams/Rashad Mason) are all 6’4″ or taller, leaving  T.J. Yates with the ideal “throw it up and see if they catch it” scenario when things go wrong. If it brought down the undefeated Patriots, it can bring down Virginia Tech, right?

TB Jamal Womble: Aside from the spring game, very little is known about Womble except for all the records that he broke in high school. The Spring Game has proven to be an unreliable data set, but it seems apparent that Womble will get a lot of carries this season. He’s has speed and strength, but most importantly he has vision. He seems to have a keen eye for which alleys to attack at the line and in the secondary. With less than 10 carries in an exhibition game, he has shown more vision and elusiveness than Draughn and Houston showed last season.  Unlike Draughn and Houston, Womble will also be an effective receiver out of the backfield. Having lost the top three receivers from 2008 and looking for T.J. Yates to stay healthy, UNC will need to bolster its backfield production in 2009. Jamal Womble looks like he can make an immediate impact.

LB Zach Brown: Bruce Carter and HIS HIGHNESS QUANTAVIUS have established themselves as two of the most athletic linebackers in the ACC. Zach is faster than both of them. Whether that translates to pure defensive awesomeness is yet to be seen, but Everett Withers would be hard-pressed to find a better college linebacking corps to suit his Cover 2-esque scheme.

Really Tall Punter Guy: I don’t remember this guy’s name, but he’s the tallest player on the team, he wore #39 at the spring game, and he has a cannon for a leg. He punted three or four times, and each of them went for about 60 yards and had tremendous hangtime.

Players Who You Really Hope Made the Most of the Offseason


CB Jordan Hemby: Kendric Burney is a lockdown corner, but Hemby is still a projected starter by his side. This should concern you because his play in 2008 was, to put it diplomatically, enigmatic and inconsistent.

SS Da’Norris Searcy: Trimane Goddard left some pretty big shoes to fill. Searcy is talented, and he displayed flashes of brilliance against West Virginia in the bowl game. Still, it’s yet to be seen how easily he can fill Goddard’s role.

Defensive-End-By-Committee: It’s close to certain that Robert Quinn will spearhead one side of the line, but the other side looks to be a revolving door of inconsistent veterans and talented but inexperienced freshmen.

The Offensive Line: The offensive line kept some stability from 2008, but the absences of Garrett Reynolds (graduation/NFL) and Aaron Stahl (foregoing last year of eligibility due to injury) will be felt.

WR Greg Little: Greg goes back to his natural position this season as the most experienced receiver on the team and, perhaps ironically, the non-QB best acquainted with John Shoop’s playbook. Fans are beginiing to wonder if he will justify the hype surrounding his arrival in Chapel Hill. This is the year where he will either silecne the critics or prove them right. I think he’ll do well, but the jury is out for now.

T.J. Yates’ Health: Wolfpack Fans, if I don’t see frisbees on the field at Carter-Finley this November, I will be severely disappointed in you.

Am I being a bit opitmistic here? Probably. But the summer is the time for optimism, a time for anticipating what’s to come. Grumbling, cynicism and reduction of expectaion should wait, at least, until UConn scores on a devastating 90-yard drive in the third quarter. Until then RESERVE THE HOTEL TO MIAMI WERE GOING 11-1 OMG WHOOOOOO!!!

Photos: The venerable Inside Carolina.

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