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2017 Virginia Football Opponent Preview: North Carolina

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The Heels are facing a rebuilding or reloading season

NCAA Football: The Citadel at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina had a fairly successful year in Larry Fedora’s 5th season as head coach. They played in the Sun Bowl (a narrow loss to Stanford), beat a couple of ranked teams from Florida, and were themselves ranked in the top 25 for 5 weeks. However, they’ve lost their starting quarterback, star runningbacks, and most of the offensive line. There’s plenty of talent on the roster, but it will most likely be bit of a rebuilding year in Chapel Hill.

2016 Record: 8-5 (5-3 ACC)

Certainly, UVa fans would love such results from their team this year, but a deeper look at the 2016 UNC season highlights legitimate reasons for disappointment:

  • Getting obliterated at home by VT in a game that would eventually decide the Coastal
  • Losses to both instate rivals: Duke and NCSU in a year where both teams were disappointments
  • Ending the year with a 1-3 stretch including a game against the Citadel as the only victory

While no one should be too distraught in an 8 win year, losing those rivalry games kept a good year from being a great (and ACC Championship Game level) year.

Notable Departures:

QB Mitch Trubisky (lolololol the Bears lolololol)

RB Elijah Hood (3rd Team All ACC)

WR Ryan Switzer (1st Team All ACC)

Notable Additions:

OL Jonah Melton (4* 247sports)

DE Jake Lawler (4* 247sports)

CB Tre Shaw (4* 247sports)

Best Name on the Roster:

R-Fr QB Chazz Surratt

Better Know a Virginian:

DE Malik Carney (Alexandria, Va)

Carney started 10 games last year for the Heels and led the entire team in sacks. He’s an integral part of the returning defense, something this year’s team will need to rely on with all of the shoes to fill on offense. He was a three star player (per 247sports) and the 32 ranked player out of VA that year - fairly low for someone who turned into an impact sophomore. Naturally, he was never offered by the previous UVa staff.

2017 Outlook:

The Heels are certainly in rebuilding mode this year, but that doesn’t mean they’ll miss a bowl game or fail to pull off some upsets. LSU graduate transfer QB Brandon Harris could potentially fill some of the Trubisky-sized hole on offense. He was the Tiger’s starter in 2015 before and early season replacement last season. Whoever wins the starting QB job will have Austin Proehl to throw to - as there must always be a speedy annoying white wide receiver in Chapel Hill. The talent exists to plug in replacements for the OL departures, so the dearth at running back will be a bigger question mark for the offense.

In recent seasons, the defense has gone from bad to not-very-good, but with all the second and third year returning players, new DC John Papuchis has plenty to help continue the upward trajectory. One major way the defense can improve: eclipse their interception total from 2016 (which was one).

The ceiling for this team is winning the coastal, but a lot of productions needs to be replaced to make that happen. A more likely scenario would be around the seven win mark. With games against Western Carolina and ODU, you’ve got two should-be wins to go with Cal, Duke, UVa, and (potentially) GT. Pull off one upset (Pitt, NC State, etc...) and you’ve got your seven. However, if they struggle to score at a similar rate to 2016, the floor for this season could be missing out on bowl eligibility.

Prediction:

The talent disparity is quite large in this matchup. The momentum sides with UNC’s 7 straight wins. UVa went on the road last year and surprised another NC triangle team, so those of the true Mendenhall believers might see enough growth in his second year to pull off a similar upset. I’m more of an evidence-based believer here and will go with a UNC victory. Let’s say by 17.

Poll

Will the Hoos win their road game at UNC?

This poll is closed

  • 39%
    Yes
    (72 votes)
  • 60%
    No
    (110 votes)
182 votes total Vote Now