The 2014 North Carolina football schedule was released, and my first reaction is “Can the season start right now!” This is going to be a fun season for UNC Football, with a lot of good games and challenges for what will be a very good Carolina football team. On first glance, the UNC Football 2014 schedule seems very tough. From the press release on GoHeels.com, the Heels play nine teams that went to a bowl game last year, and five teams that won at least nine games last season.
That is a tough schedule to start out with, and add in the fact that UNC has most of their toughest games on the road, and that the Heels will play a brutal seven game stretch with no bye weeks in-between from East Carolina to Miami- the Heels will really have their hands full next season. But next year’s Heels can compete will all of the teams on the schedule next season, and technically, if you use Mark Schlabach’s New Way too Early Top 25 ranks, the Heels don’t play anyone ranked higher than them on the schedule.
Lets break the teams UNC will play next season up into 4 tiers. The tiers that we divided UNC’s opponents up into are as follows: Tough Road Matchups, Swing Games, Fingers Crossed We Show up and Win, and Gimmes. Lets start with the “Tough Road Matchups.”
Tough Road Matchups: at Clemson, at Notre Dame
There is no doubt that these two games are the toughest on UNC’s schedule. Yes, Clemson is losing a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, but they are still always a BCS contender under Dabo Swinney. Notre Dame had a minor down year last season, but QB Everett Golson should be back and the Irish are always tough in South Bend. Two losses in these two games wouldn’t surprise me.
Swing Games: at Duke, Virginia Tech, at Miami
These are the “Swing Games” because depending on the outcome, they could swing UNC’s season in a very good or very bad direction. Notice all three of these games are key Coastal Division matchups, and sweeping the trio would likely mean a birth in the ACC championship game. At Duke will be tough because of the atmosphere and UNC’s recent struggles against the Dukies, and Miami should continue to make strides forward under Al Golden. Virginia Tech stays in this category because we lost to them last season, and they are always a tough matchup for UNC.
Fingers Crossed We Show Up and Win: NC State, Pitt, at ECU, Georgia Tech
This is the group of games that makes me nervous. Especially that September 20th matchup against ECU, right before the Clemson game. These games are all ones that UNC should win if they were played on paper. But as we learned against ECU, you can’t always count on these gimmes. I anticipate GT taking a step back, but the Heels just can’t seem to beat them as of late. NC State stays on here for the rivalry, Pitt for the timing (UNC plays Duke and Pitt in a seven day period,) and ECU because, well, of last season, (the game that shall not be named.)
Gimmes: Liberty, San Diego State, at Virginia
Besides Liberty, one could really make a case that Virginia and SDSU are not gimme games. UVA is pulling in a nice recruiting class and were a really young football team last year, and San Diego State is a quality team that always goes to a bowl. But, on paper, these games look safe for Carolina. SDSU’s quarterback next season will be pretty rusty, and UNC had no trouble with the Hoos either of the last two years. These three teams are for sure the easiest for UNC and should be three notches in the old win column for the Heels.