The North Carolina Tar Heels are coming off of a breakthrough 2015 campaign that featured 11 wins, a Coastal Division title, and a top-10 finish. Coach Larry Fedora’s 2016 squad enters the season as the likely favorite in its very competitive division, though it will be replacing its star quarterback and several other key contributors. The Heels open the season in Atlanta against the Georgia Bulldogs in week one.
Florida State is 15-2-1 all-time against North Carolina, though the Tar Heels won the last meeting between the two teams. Dustin Hopkins missed a 40-yard field goal with 0:07 left to play and the Heels won for the first time in nine tries at Doak Campbell. Let’s make ourselves feel better about that, shall we?
As mentioned, last season was a great success for Carolina. Matching or even exceeding that level of performance will require quarterback heir apparent Mitch Trubisky to live up to what Heels’ fans believe he can be, albeit based on a small sample size. He’ll be joined by an excellent backfield tandem in Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan, as well as plenty of weapons on the outside and four of five starting offensive linemen from 2015. His offensive coordinator’s name is Gunter Brewer, which is also goes in the plus column. If Trubisky is able to play at an average or above level, the Heels’ uptempo offense should be quite formidable yet again.
Somehow, Gene Chizik was a Broyles Award finalist last year. And while UNC’s defense certainly did improve last season (as Bill C explains - see below), it’s difficult to wrap one's head around the coordinator of the nation’s 67th-ranked defense as a finalist for the award given annually to the best assistant in college football. Anyway, Coach Chizik’s task this season is to improve a dreadful run defense that finished 106th in that category in 2015. He’ll have to replace three of his top six tacklers in the front-seven, though his best defenders on the back end do return. While the Tar Heels do draw your Seminoles from the Atlantic Division, the schedule sets up pretty favorably in-conference in that they’ll play Pitt, Virginia Tech, and Georgia Tech at home.
SB Nation’s own Bill Connelly has dropped his big 2016 North Carolina preview. Read and become learned. Here are some quick bites:
The Tar Heels lose just enough play-makers to raise an eyebrow, but depth is solid in most units, and if a new quarterback emerges to replace Marquise Williams, you might be looking at back-to-back division titles. It doesn't take that much of a leap to get there.
Thanks to both a friendly ACC home schedule and two more FCS opponents, UNC has more likely to sure wins than most of the teams in the ACC's midsection. Per S&P+, they have at least a 66 percent chance of winning in five games, and they're only below 45 percent in two.