After returning many of their playmakers on a squad that lost by an average of only 4.3 points per game, the Tar Heel football team enters Saturday’s season opener against Syracuse ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 2016 and #3 in the ACC’s preseason power rankings. Simply put, people are expecting big things from UNC. It’s not a position that’s unfamiliar, but unfortunately history hasn’t been kind to Tar Heel teams with high expectations.
The last five times UNC was ranked in the Top 25 entering the season (2016, 2014, 2010, 2009 and 1998), they ended the year unranked. The good news is the last time the Tar Heels lived up to preseason expectations was Mack Brown’s final year in Chapel Hill before he accepted a the head coaching job at Texas. The 1997 UNC squad finished with an 11-1 record and ranked 6th to end the year.
Coach Brown is no stranger to living up to the hype, but he knows how important a week one win will be to forging a path toward an ACC Championship appearance.
“Our team’s excited about the challenge on Saturday of Syracuse,” Coach Brown said during a game-week press conference. “We’ve had a lot of hype since the bowl game. A lot of people have been talking about how much better we’re going to be and how good we’re going to be. We’ll see now if the hype is real. Are we going to be that much improved or was is just the momentum at the end of the last year? It’s time to play somebody else and really figure out who we are.”
Opening up against Syracuse presents a different kind of challenge for UNC. Coach Brown admitted that his squad wasn’t planning on playing The Orange, who weren’t on their original schedule, and having to prepare for them and new defensive coordinator Tony White week-one was an unexpected adjustment and concern. But despite all that, Brown and company – with the uncertainty that has surrounded the year – are just happy to be kicking off the season.
- North Carolina and Syracuse will meet in the 2020 season opener on Saturday, Sept. 12 in Chapel Hill for a noon kickoff on ACC Network.
- The Tar Heels are coming off a 7-6 record in the 2019 season. UNC defeated Temple, 55-13, in the Military Bowl to earn its first winning season since 2016.
- Syracuse posted a 5-7 overall record in 2019 and went 2-6 against the ACC, winning two of its last three games against Duke and Wake Forest.
- The two teams matched up as conference opponents for the first time ever in 2018 in a three-overtime thriller that went to the host Orange, 40-37.
- Carolina last hosted Syracuse in the 2003 campaign, and ironically enough, the Orange won in three overtimes that day as well, 49-47.
- The Tar Heels fi rst win against the Orange was a 27-10 win inside the Carrier Dome in 1996.
- The first meeting in the series was held in Chapel Hill in 1995 and the result went in favor of the visiting Orange, 20-9. The game is probably best known as the launch of the Donovan McNabb era at SU.
Mack Brown VS. Syracuse:
- Mack Brown is 1-1 all-time against Syracuse.
- UNC lost 20-9 in the first ever game between the two schools on the football fi eld in 1995 in Kenan.
- The following year the Tar Heels went into Central New York and came away with a 27-10 victory.
- Carolina begins a season ranked for the first time since 2016. The Tar Heels were selected No. 18 in the Associated Press top 25 poll, while the Amway Coaches Poll listed UNC at No. 19.
ACC Preseason Poll:
- Carolina is predicted to finish third in the ACC Preseason Poll. The Tar Heels trail only Clemson and Notre Dame in the 15-team poll.
- Three Tar Heels, Michael Carter (All-Purpose), Dazz Newsome (WR) and Chazz Surratt (LB), were named to the 2020 Preseason All-ACC Football Team.
- Carolina hosts its lone non-conference game of the season next Saturday against in-state foe Charlotte. Kick off is slated for 3:30 pm on ACC Regional Sports Network.