UNC Football: Is Carolina 6-0 with a Healthy Gio Bernard?


Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

It’s no secret that the North Carolina Tar Heels are gaining momentum. The evidence was overwhelming once UNC hung 48 points on a Virginia Tech team that has dominated the ACC ever since they joined the league back in 2004. The 48-34 win marked North Carolina’s third in a row and 1st ACC win for first year head coach Larry Fedora. The Heels are averaging 44 ppg in a brand new offensive system which is the 9th best statistically in the country. Hard to believe, but just a mere six games in the Tar Heels seem to be hitting a stride within the new scheme much sooner than anticipated. Every player seems to have their roles figured out and each player plays a part in the team’s overall success, but none are more critical than Giovani Bernard.

The Tar Heels are 4-2 on the year and 1-1 in the conference. Both losses came in back to back weeks on the road to Wake Forest and Louisville and both games were lost by Carolina to a total of six combined points. It’s no secret that Bernard was absent from both of those games and many fans would believe that if Gio was healthy for both weeks, then the Tar Heels are staring at a 6-0 record instead 4-2. Hey, it’s highly possible and even somewhat probable that those assumptions would be accurate if those had been the circumstances.

Bernard is the Tar Heels leading rusher on the team and has accumulated 475 yards on the ground with five touchdowns. 262 of those yards came against Virginia Tech last week which is well over half of that total. The numbers are a little skewed since Virginia Tech is just the second game that Bernard has played this season into the second half; the other being against East Carolina where he had just 50 yards on 18 attempts in his first game back from injury. Against Elon, Gio put 93 yards in the books in just one half of play and against Idaho, he only had two total carries for 70 yards and both carries resulted in touchdowns. Unbelievable. In my opinion, if Gio had played every game in its entirety to this point in the season injury free and remained injury free during the second half of the year, then he’d break the single season rushing yards record set by Don McCauley in 1970 of 1,720 yards. That may be ambitious, but I think Bernard is just that talented and that dynamic.

Would Carolina actually be 6-0 if he had played? I’d like to think so. I for sure think the Heels would be at least 5-1, but that Louisville game was different in terms of UNC having to air the ball out exclusively during the second half having been down by so many points. The Tar Heels clearly go as Gio does. He’s scored every game he has played and he does so much to help open up the passing game due to the respect and attention he is given by opposing defenses. UNC only rushed for 204 yards combined in both games during Bernard’s absence. That figure is less than what he rushed by himself last weekend against the Hokies. Clearly, he is a difference maker.

If Gio remains healthy and leads the Tar Heels to an unblemished record to close the season out, I will 100% agree that if he had played during both losses, that the Heels would be undefeated. The way I look at it though is while it’s nice to be unbeaten, how depressing would  it be to see Carolina sitting at 6-0 and then having the harsh realization that come December, UNC isn’t allowed to participate in any postseason activity. Perhaps it’s better this way. At this point though, there seems to be real promise for next season as long as Gio stays healthy. What do you think?