Funny how football season sneaks up on you. We are officially less than seven weeks from college football’s opening night, and from UNC’s opener against McNeese State. Time to start thinking about sunny Saturdays at Kenan Stadium: beautiful pine trees, soggy barbecue sandwiches, empty mini bottles of Jim Beam in the stands, almost-comebacks, and TJ Yates throwing a floater into the vacant arms of an outside linebacker in the first quarter.

Look at that picture and tell me you’re not smelling fresh grass, greasy funnel cake and 5-7 right now.

Many UNC fans certainly have high expectations for the season. It’s mid-July and season tickets have already sold out. Despite a 4-8 record last season, ther seems to be a lot of buzz surrounding the potential that this team can reach. Whether the expectations put on this young team (2009 ACC Champs Baby!) is justified remains to be seen, but everyone expects them to makes leaps and strides, at least enough to turn last year’s close losses into a few close wins and a trip to the Queen City/Continental Tire/Meineke Car Care/Whatever the hell they’re calling the one in Charlotte these days Bowl. Many signs encouraged us to believe this could happen:

  1. Of our 8 losses last year, 6 were decided by 7 points or less.
  2. This team already has a stout, young, and talented defense.
  3. The schedule is easier this year, both in non-conference and Atlantic division opponents.
  4. Greg Little could become UNC’s first 1,000 yard rusher since Jon Linton. Believe me, when you’re waxing nostalgic of Jon Linton, your running game has issues.
  5. T.J. Yates stands to have a pretty big learning curve, and could be one of the ACC’s best passers this year if he can stay healthy. Besides, he can’t throw a pick on the opening possession of every game…right?
  6. It bears repeating: UNC’s schedule is not all that diffcult. Even if we make only slight improvements from last season, and the indications are that UNC can make great strides, it can be a huge difference in the evenly matched (read: bad) ACC landscape in 2008.

The difference between a 4-8 Carolina and a 9-3 Virginia is much less than it is at first glance. This is the year where we can make that leap. That said, any bowl game apperance would probably be enough for Heels fans this season, myself included. So let’s enjoy the ride.