The North Carolina football team will be road warriors this year with six games away from Kenan Stadium including the first two of the season. But it is more the length of their travel this coming fall that makes their schedule so daunting. By the end of the season, the Heels will have seen the west coast and the northeast as well their usual stops in ACC country.
With a Power 5 team to start the season, a Group of 5 squad that won a major bowl game just two weeks later, and the usual rigorous ACC slate, North Carolina will have a difficult challenge in 2018.
North Carolina Tar Heels 2018 Schedule
Bye: Week 6
Week 1 – Sept. 1 at California (Berkeley, Calif)
The Bears beat the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill to open 2017 and will be looking to begin their '18 campaign in similar fashion at home. They are buoyed by the return of 1,000-yard rusher Patrick Laird, quarterback Ross Bowers, and hopefully a healthy Demetris Robertson at wide receiver.
Week 2 – Sept. 8 at East Carolina (Greenville, N.C.)
The Pirates are coming off a miserable 3-9 season where eight of their losses were by 20 or more points. UNC will have to pay close attention to wide receiver Trevon Brown, who caught 60 passes for 1,069 yards and seven scores last fall.
Week 3 – Sept. 15 vs. UCF (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
Scott Frost is now the head coach at Nebraska, but the Knights should be formidable once again. Star quarterback McKenzie Milton returns for the Sugar Bowl champions as well as four of the top six tacklers on defense.
Week 4 – Sept. 22 vs. Pittsburgh (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
North Carolina will open ACC play against the rebuilding Panthers. Head coach Pat Narduzzi must fix a pass defense that has been deficient the past two years and offensively will lean on quarterback Kenny Pickett, a rising sophomore that led Pitt to an upset victory over Miami to close 2017.
Week 5 – Sept. 27 at Miami (Miami Gardens, Fla.)
The Hurricanes are the clear favorite to repeat as Coastal champs and they will host the Tar Heels on a short week. One of Miami’s many strengths will be a linebacking corps that features juniors Shaq Quarterman, Michael Pinckney and Zach McCloud.
Week 7 – Oct. 13 vs. Virginia Tech (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
It’s year three for Justin Fuente in Blacksburg and the Hokies head coach has to replace several key components. But if Josh Jackson takes a step forward at quarterback and some answers emerge on defense, Virginia Tech is capable of being near the top of the Coastal once again.
Week 8 – Oct. 20 at Syracuse (Syracuse, N.Y.)
It will be an important season for Dino Babers, whose two 4-8 seasons mirror Scott Schaeffer’s final campaign in 2015. An Orange defense that struggled last fall now must replace linebackers Parris Bennett and Zaire Franklin.
Week 9 – Oct. 27 at Virginia (Charlottesville, Va.)
The Cavaliers qualified for a bowl game in Bronco Mendenhall’s second season in Charlottesville. Reaching that level for a second straight year will not be easy without linebacker Micah Kiser, safety Quin Blanding and quarterback Kurt Benkert.
Week 10 – Nov. 3 vs. Georgia Tech (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
Despite having troubles stopping the run in recent years, North Carolina has defeated the Yellow Jackets and their option attack three of the last four seasons.
Week 11 – Nov. 10 at Duke (Durham, N.C.)
After missing a bowl game in 2016, the Blue Devils qualified for postseason in '17 for the fifth time in six years. They also claimed the Victory Bell by beating Carolina for the fourth time in six years.
Week 12 – Nov. 17 vs. Western Carolina (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
Wedged between the rivalry game with Duke and the rivalry game with NC State is a contest with the Catamounts from the FCS ranks. The Tar Heels blew out Western Carolina last November.
Week 13 – Nov. 24 vs. NC State (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
The Wolfpack loses the vast majority of their defense, including Bradley Chubb, who will hear his name called early at the NFL draft. Quarterback Ryan Finley is back, but weapons like Nyheim Hines and Jaylen Samuels must be replaced.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.