Following Florida State’s thrilling victory over Auburn in the BCS National Championship, Mark Schlabach got the ball rolling on next season’s college football coverage with a “Way Too Early Top 25.” Ranked number one was Florida State, understandably, after coming off a national championship and returning a Heisman-winning quarterback in Jameis Winston. Rounding out the top 5 was Alabama, Oregon, Stanford, and Auburn.
Coming in at number 17 in the rankings was the North Carolina Tar Heels. UNC was the second ranked team in the ACC, and first in the Coastal, so Schlabach also indirectly just picked the Heels as his favorite to represent the Coastal division in the ACC Championship. Here is what Schlabach had to say about the Tar Heels.
The Tar Heels were one of the ACC’s hottest teams in the second half of the season, recovering from a 1-5 start to win six of their last seven games, including a 39-17 win over Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl. In coach Larry Fedora’s second season, UNC finally seemed to figure out the nuances of his spread offense, averaging 40.5 points in its last seven games. The Tar Heels were really young in 2013 — 12 of their 22 starters in the Belk Bowl were freshmen or sophomores — and they might bring back seven starters on both sides of the ball next season. Junior tight end Eric Ebron and center Russell Bodine are leaving for the NFL draft, and departing left tackle James Hurst is another big loss on offense. Fedora also will have to hire a new playcaller after offensive coordinator Blake Anderson left to become Arkansas State’s coach. UNC will play ACC road games at Clemson, Duke, Miami and Virginia.
I agree with the ranking and the analysis from ESPN’s college football guru. The Heels did seem to click offensively in the second half of the season with Marquise Williams in at quarterback and have lots of young talent. The losses of Russell Bodine and Eric Ebron will hurt, but with so many young guys returning, the future is bright.
We still have a long way to go before kickoff of next season, and a lot can change in those rankings depending on how signing day and spring practices go. But this ranking is a good sign for UNC football and a welcome surprise for a cold Tuesday morning for making into the Early Top 25.