Normally, this would be the time where I give a final predicition of how well Carolina is going to play this season, based on schedule, personnel, experience, coaching, and the rest of the conference.
But I cannot, in my heart of hearts, give a proper predicition. There is no true way, prior to the beginning of the season, to predict how my Tar Heels will fare. Whether it’s 10-2 or 2-10, any one who says they can pinpoint the 2008 season is lying.
1. The Rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference is just as unpredictable as we are.
Half of the conference, UNC included, is breaking a new coach they have hired within the last two years. We happen to be facing all of the other five teams (@Miami and Duke, hosting BC, Georgia Tech, and NC State). Two of our other ACC opponents have had to complete overhaul their lineup as well (Va. Tech, @UVa). The only stable team on our ACC slate is Maryland, and they finihed 6-6 in the 2007 regular season. We could finish anywhere from 7-1 to 2-6 in conference. We just don’t know.
2. Our Non-Conference Opponents.
McNeese State is the only game than I can declare victory with any level of certainty, and even that could reasonably be an upset. Our other OOC games are against two mid-level Big East teams (@Rutgers, vs. UConn) and Notre Dame, the only FBS to have had an larger roster turnover than the Tar Heels. They’re all technically beatable, but I’m certain that each of these teams also consider us beatable.
3. Our Coaching Staff.
Butch Davis and John Shoop are in their second year at Carolina, and I think we’re fairly comfortable with them. But last year’s defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano, has since gone back to the NFL. In his place: Everett Withers. Will we see the Everett Withers who was a top DB coach at the University of Texas and the Tennessee Titans, or will we see the Withers that led the nation’s worst defense in 2007 at MInnesota? Only time will tell.
4. Our players.
How will T.J. Yates play in his second year? WIll Greg Little provide enough run support? Will the offensive line be a cohesive unit? Will we have reliable linebackers and defensive ends? We have a good starting 22, but who’s behind them? At what positions will our lack of depth come back to bite us, if any? So many personnel question, all of which can only be answered by the upcoming season.
There are way too many unkowns about this team to make an accurate prediction. While I would be ecstatic with anything 7-5 or better, I could realistically see this team finishing 11-1 or 4-8 without being completely surprised. So to maintain your sanity as a UNC football fan, I ask that you just enjoy the journey this season, and not worry too much about the ultimate destination.
The journey officially begins tomorrow night at six. Let’s do this.