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North Carolina Football: Game-by-Game Predictions for 2022

Josh Downs, North Carolina Tar Heels Football

Josh Downs and the Tar Heels look for more consistency following last season's disappointing 6-7 record.

The 2021 campaign was supposed to be the breakout one for North Carolina. Sixteen starters returned from the 2020 Orange Bowl team including quarterback Sam Howell, who was considered a prime contender for the Heisman Trophy. But right from the start, a 17-10 loss to Virginia Tech, things did not go as planned. The Tar Heels never won more than two games in a row and finished the season at 6-7.

Related: North Carolina Football 2022 Season Preview and Prediction

So what now? Howell and much of the offensive line are gone and a defense that finished 105th in scoring will be starting over as Gene Chizik returns to run that side of the ball. Head coach Mack Brown has recruited well, but 2022 will be important in terms of regaining momentum that was lost last fall.

A panel of Athlon analysts discuss whether or not a bounce-back campaign is in the cards for North Carolina in 2022.

North Carolina Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2022

Steven LassanMark RossJon Kinne

Florida A&M

North Carolina

North Carolina

North Carolina

at Appalachian State

North Carolina

North Carolina

Appalachian State

at Georgia State

North Carolina

North Carolina

North Carolina

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Virginia Tech

North Carolina

North Carolina

North Carolina

at Miami

Miami

Miami

Miami

at Duke

North Carolina

North Carolina

North Carolina

Pitt

Pitt

Pitt

Pitt

at Virginia

North Carolina

North Carolina

North Carolina

at Wake Forest

Wake Forest

Wake Forest

Wake Forest

Georgia Tech

North Carolina

North Carolina

North Carolina

NC State

NC State

NC State

NC State

Final Record

7-5

7-5

6-6

Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
The Tar Heels are an interesting team to watch in 2022. Last year’s squad clearly underachieved, but coach Mack Brown’s team might have a case for being a little undervalued this fall, especially if Drake Maye or Jacolby Criswell settles in at quarterback and the defense takes a big step forward under new coordinator Gene Chizik. Also, there’s no shortage of skill talent in Chapel Hill. Receiver Josh Downs is among the best in college football, and a pair of promising freshmen running backs (George Pettaway and Omarion Hampton) alleviates the loss of British Brooks for the year. Addressing a porous and underachieving offensive line from ’21 could help ease the pressure on whichever quarterback wins the job. Chizik’s arrival as coordinator should be a huge boost and bring marked improvement to a defense that allowed 32.1 points a game last year. North Carolina doesn’t lack for talent on this side of the ball either, especially in the trenches with Myles Murphy, Travis Shaw and Raymond Vohasek. Tony Grimes and Storm Duck are back at corner as part of an experienced secondary, but this unit has to be a lot better than it was in ’21.

The schedule does have some tricky matchups against two contenders for the Sun Belt title in Appalachian State and Georgia State in September, followed by Notre Dame on Sept. 24. However, the Tar Heels catch NC State, Virginia Tech and Pitt at home this fall. If the quarterback and defense fall into place, Brown’s team might have a chance to easily exceed my 7-5 pick here.

Mark Ross (@AthlonMarkR)
There's no way to sugarcoat it – North Carolina was a huge disappointment last season. But is it possible that the script could flip in 2022? At first glance, there are plenty of reasons to expect the Tar Heels to take another step backward. No Sam Howell, starting over along the offensive line, and breaking in a new defensive coordinator. However, this is still a talented team and a lot of guys that endured last year's struggles are back and hungry for redemption. Also, rebooting the offensive line isn't the worst thing considering last year's poor performance while new DC Gene Chizik is no stranger to the program either, having served in the same capacity in 2015-16. Yes, there are still plenty of question marks on this team, starting at quarterback, and the schedule offers plenty of challenging tests; but put me in the camp that says this UNC team will find a way to finish the regular season above .500 and potentially exceeding preseason expectations, for a change.

Jon Kinne (@JonRKinne)
North Carolina has some clear areas of strength entering the season, but will those be offset by several big question marks? Josh Downs is one of America's best pass catchers, but either Jacolby Criswell or Drake Maye have to be able to get Downs the ball. Also, the offensive line allowed an ACC-worst 49 sacks in 2021 and that unit has to overcome the loss of three starters. If they don't improve, it will make the new quarterback's job more difficult, which will obviously impact Downs' production as well. The defense should be very good up front and the secondary has plenty of potential, but neither was effective for much of last season and will now be adapting to a new system. Looking at the schedule, it's easy to picture results similar to last year. The good folks at Appalachian State will be ready for the Heels' arrival in week one and things will get even more difficult from there. I actually see Carolina alternating wins and losses throughout the year and finishing at 6-6 for the second regular season in a row.