The “Meet the Heels” event on Aug. 4 opens fall camp for the North Carolina football team and that date cannot come quick enough for the boys in Carolina blue. The 3-9 record of 2017 left a mark, but there is hope that if the quarterback position can stabilize and injuries don’t cripple the team as they did last fall, significant improvement is in the cards.
But just as last year’s results were becoming a distant memory, UNC head coach Larry Fedora made national news during ACC Media Days with his views on CTE and the future of our nation. Fedora put himself in the media crosshairs with his comments on a very sensitive issue and the chatter will probably not subside until actual games begin.
For Carolina, those games begin on Sept. 1 in Berkeley, California. Can Fedora’s crew quiet the critics and turn things around? Athlon asked a few editors and college football contributors to share their realistic win/loss projection for North Carolina in 2018.
North Carolina Football Game-by-Game Predictions for 2018
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
North Carolina is a tough team to get a read on this preseason, so I don’t feel great about picking a 4-8 final record. I think it’s more likely this team finds a way to 5-7. However, coach Larry Fedora has some significant question marks to answer this offseason, starting at quarterback. Will Chazz Surratt claim the job over Nathan Elliott? And who steps up to fill in on the interior of the offensive line? The defense has struggled to take a step forward over the last couple of seasons and may not show a ton of progress this fall. Swing games against Syracuse, Duke and NC State are likely to decide just how high this team climbs in the ACC Coastal.
Mitch Light (@AthlonMitch)
There wasn't anything fluky about North Carolina's 3–9 record last year. The Tar Heels weren't very good -- both on paper and on the field. It's tough to envision too much of a turnaround, though it must be noted that anything is possible in the wide-open Coastal Division. The home game against Western Carolina appears to be the only sure thing on the slate, though the Heels should be able to take care of struggling ECU in Greenville. To reach bowl eligibility, UNC will have to win some road games against some of the middle-(to lower)-of-the-pack teams in the league (such as Syracuse, Virginia and Duke).
Bryan Fischer (@BryanDFischer)
You want to talk yourself into this being a nice bounce-back campaign for Larry Fedora's Tar Heels but even if the coaching staff figures out the quarterback position and doesn't lose a dozen guys to injury, this could be an improved team that doesn't have the wins to show it. It's a very tricky schedule both in and out of conference and the depth on both sides of the ball just doesn't seem like it's there. They'll surprise some team and win some coin-flips against mid-level ACC competition but it seems like another long year on the gridiron in Chapel Hill.
Jon Kinne (@JonRKinne)
The ACC -- and the Coastal Division in particular -- has a bunch of teams with similar talent levels. North Carolina is in that group and, as a result, the Tar Heels will probably have a lot of close games this fall. Unfortunately, I think they will again come up short in many of those contests.
The problems are finding the right quarterback and stopping the run, two issues that can kill a team in tight games. Nathan Elliott provided a spark at the end of last season, but Chazz Surratt has more upside. With a wide receiver as talented as Anthony Ratliff-Williams (above, right), it will be a shame if UNC spends another season trying to figure out the passing part of the pass-catch formula. Defensively, there is some promise on the edge, but they have to do a better job on the interior, especially against big, physical opponents.
Finding six wins on the Carolina schedule is tough. The Heels do catch a break in that they get Syracuse (along with the yearly game against NC State) and not Clemson or Florida State as a crossover opponent. But that 'Cuse game is on the road and the Orange should be improved as well in 2017. If the Heels attain bowl eligibility, it would not be a huge shock. But I think six wins is the high-water mark and they most likely miss the postseason once again.