The symbol of optimists everywhere.
At the end of the ACC Kickoff, the media voted on how they thought the conference would shake out. As expected, Clemson and Virginia Tech are the favorites to win their respective divisions, with the Tigers expected to win the conference. Much like the Spanish soccer team, experts are expecting Clemson to do what their talent says they should have done for the past three years.
There was also the usual mild surprises such as Florida State and Miami finishing in the middle of their respective divisions (sweet) and NC State finishing last in the Atlantic (super sweet). What was the most shocking to me, however, was where the Tar Heels were ranked.
The media expects big things out of Chapel Hill this year. That, or they expect to enjoy pointing and laughing at ACC football this season. Either way, the Heels were voted to finish second in the Coastal this season. Yes, this is a down year for the conference and yes, we’re expected to make one of the biggest leaps of any team in the country this year. So why is it still surprising to a Carolina fan? Because the last time the media picked us to finish in the top half of the ACC, this guy was our quarterback. Hint: our team vaguely resembled a spice rack. (People often forget that he was supposed to be the next Charlie Ward.)
So, are the media expecting too much too fast, or are Heels fans still overly cautious to be emotionally invested in a potential 8-9 win season? I think it’s the latter. This is the year where Carolina can, and should, make the leap into a consistent bowl contender. The nonconference schedule is solid but not daunting, we dodged the top half of the Atlantic Division, and we get many of our most important games (especially Virginia Tech) at home. Virtually every game is winnable; we proved that we can stay close no matter who we play. And all of our young, talented players now have a year under their belts.
Granted, I would still be happy with just a bowl game. But the stars have aligned this season. It’s time…finally…for Carolina fans to expect great things from their football team.
UPDATE: Deunta Williams certainly has his hopes up. Way, way up. Hey, if Wake could win an ACC title in 2006, we certainly stand a chance to get it in 2008.