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North Carolina Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2020

Sam Howell, North Carolina Tar Heels Football

North Carolina Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2020

The saying goes, "If God's not a Tar Heel, then why is the sky Carolina blue?" Well, if there's ever been a year when theNorth Carolina Tar Heels need help from above, it would be 2020.

With quarterback Sam Howell ready to lead a potentially dynamic offense and with what should be an improved defense under second-year coordinator Jay Bateman, the Tar Heel faithful have to be hoping and praying that football games are played. After a 7-6 season in Year One of Mack Brown's return, the Heels know that they can accomplish a lot more this time around.

Here's a look at each of North Carolina contests through the eyes of a couple of Athlon Sports editors and a college football contributor.

North Carolina Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2020

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Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)

Clemson is the unquestioned favorite atop the ACC, but second place is likely to come down to North Carolina or Notre Dame. The Tar Heels were a much-improved team in coach Mack Brown's debut last fall, and the momentum isn't going to slow in 2020 thanks to the return of quarterback Sam Howell and one of the nation's top receiving corps. Scoring points won't be a problem for North Carolina, but the defense will require some new faces to emerge in the trenches to replace Aaron Crawford and Jason Strowbridge. The Tar Heels won't have to play Clemson or Louisville in the regular season and key games against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame take place in Chapel Hill. With a favorable schedule and the conference's second-best quarterback, a trip to the ACC title game should be within reach for Brown in 2020.

Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)

The pieces are in place for North Carolina to compete for a spot in the ACC Championship Game, although the dissolution of the divisions and addition of Notre Dame for this season makes the path more difficult. As long as Sam Howell stays healthy and continues to improve, the Tar Heels have a chance to win every game, especially with how their schedule lays out. There will be obstacles along the way but if UNC can beat Virginia Tech at home and handle Virginia and Duke on the road, Mack Brown's team should enter its big clash with Notre Dame on Black Friday in contention for that trip to Charlotte. Then we will find out if these Tar Heels are ready for prime time or just a pretty good team.

Jon Kinne (@JonRKinne)

Not only did North Carolina get to and win a bowl game in 2019, but they also closed with a flourish by winning their last three games by a combined 152-30. Now, the Heels return much of their production on both sides of the ball. If there is an ACC team that could join Clemson as a national contender, it very well could be Carolina.

Helping matters is the schedule. They don't have to face Louisville, and Pittsburgh was removed during the reshuffling. Notre Dame is a tough opponent, but the Fighting Irish come to Chapel Hill, and the North Carolina wide receivers could present major problems for the Irish's inexperienced corners.

That game against the Notre Dame could determine who plays Clemson in the ACC title game. I think the Heels will surprise the Irish, though I can't see this team going 11-0. Maybe it will be at Florida State or at home to Virginia Tech, but at some point, they will get beat. My guess is that after the high of stunning ND, with the ACC Championship against Clemson looming the next week, North Carolina suffers a letdown and falls to Miami. But I'm guessing UNC fans would sign up for 10-1 right now.

(Top photo courtesy of @TarHeelFootball)