CHAPEL HILL, N.C. –– There are only 27 undefeated teams in college football right now.
And the No. 15 North Carolina Tar Heels have made the cut.
In Week 4, the Tar Heels were faced with their first true road test at Pittsburgh and came out of Acrisure Stadium victorious for the first time since 2017. They defeated the Panthers in a 41-24 blowout win and now enter a week 5 bye where they’ll be able to rest and prepare for their next homestand on Oct. 7.
With the win, UNC improved to 4-0 on the season for the first time since 1997 and is shaping up to contend with the upper echelon of college football – a group that includes the likes of Georgia, Ohio State and Texas all of whom are also unbeaten going into the new week.
This team—filtered with Tar Heel vets and new faces—is hungry. And their fast-paced, dominant style of play and overall growth is setting them up well for a potential ACC championship berth come Dec. 2.
Now that’s not to say it’s gonna be an easy journey. In fact, head coach Mack Brown is quick to say that this schedule is one of the toughest he’s faced in his career. But with a newly-refined defense that is now comfortable under the defensive scheme of year-two coordinator Gene Chizik and a multifaceted offense that is gonna make it work one way or another, this team is making a noticeable and impactful difference. And four games in, I don’t think they’re even close to their ceiling.
With these improvements, however, it’s important to also note the changes that have occurred within the ACC during the offseason and the strength of its schools four weeks into the season.
The conference was riddled in realignment drama for months and the Atlantic Coast Conference now quite literally extends from coast to coast. After what seemed like endless conversation and push back, the league came to the decision to add SMU, Cal and Stanford – schools who are primed to join the league starting in the 2024-25 season and take the league total to 18 total programs. The addition of these
members also brings stronger competition in the future, raising the question of how the Tar Heels will fare against new foes.
Starting this year, the league also began a new scheduling model, scrapping the Atlantic and Coastal divisions for a format where the ACC title game will instead feature the conference’s top two teams based on winning percentage.
If you remember last year, the Tar Heels took the Coastal crown with a 36-34 win over Wake Forest. With these changes, each school is now competing with an increased sense of pride and competitiveness – with an emphasis being placed on maximizing wins. Which leads me to my next point….
North Carolina is just one of six unbeaten ACC schools with: No. 5-ranked Florida State, 17-ranked Duke, Louisville, Syracuse and No.18-ranked Miami—the latter of the two the Tar Heels will have to face after the bye week. This dominant start to the season matched the SEC’s record where back in 2012 they too had the most out of all Power 5 schools start the season 4-0.
While the ACC still has work to do to meet that threshold of being considered a big dog conference, it’s impossible to deny the fact that they have come to deliver in spite of all the drama that has characterized the past couple of months. They must keep up the momentum and if they continue to trek down the schedule with success, they could even find themselves in the CFP.
Opening league play with a win added fuel to an already hot start for the Tar Heels. And if they hope to solidify themselves as a repeat opponent in the conference race and earn another trip to Charlotte, how they handle business over these next few games will be a crucial indicator for how the remainder of their season is expected to go.