Can North Carolina beat Clemson in Death Valley?


The North Carolina Tar Heels football season kicks off on August 30th against the Liberty Flames at home in Kenan Stadium. To get you ready for the nationally ranked Tar Heel’s first game, Keeping It Heel will have an extensive football preview series previewing all of Carolina’s positions, games and reviewing 2013′s games. Check back to Keeping It Heel every afternoon for new preview posts. Today, let’s preview UNC Football’s game against Clemson.


North Carolina hasn’t won at Death Valley against the Clemson Tigers since 2001. That year, the Julius Peppers led Tar Heels beat Clemson 38-3 for their fifth straight victory. The Heels would finish that season with an 8-5 record and a Peach Bowl win against Auburn.

This year, the Tar Heels will return to Clemson most likely with a 3-0 record, looking to prove themselves to the nation. If there was ever a time to upset Clemson, this would seem like the year. The Tigers will be coming off of a date with Florida State in what will be a revenge game for Clemson as they look to avenge last year’s 51-14 loss to the Seminoles.

Also, the Tigers are looking to replace multiple starters on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Tajh Boyd and talented wide receiver Sammy Watkins, two key pieces of the Clemson offense, are both gone. Watkins now plays for the Buffalo Bills after being selected fourth overall in the most recent NFL Draft. Running back Roderick McDowell is also gone, meaning that the Tigers lost their top passer, rusher and receiver from last season’s 11 game winning squad.

This is a rebuilding year for the Tigers, and they have a top-15 class to try and do so. Five star quarterback Deshaun Watson could push senior Cole Stoudt for the starting job, as offensive coordinator Chad Morris has said that Watson will play against Georgia, per Wideouts Demarre Kitt and Trevion Thompson also stand out as freshman who could contribute right away.

More from North Carolina Tar Heels

The defense will be the stronger side of the ball for the Tigers, as Stephone Anthony, Vic Beasley and Grady Jarrett all return. That trio all earned preseason All-ACC honors. Beasley, who recorded 13 sacks as a junior, got the most votes of any defensive player. He will give UNC’s offensive line its first real test of the year.

The game against Clemson on September 27th will be an opportunity for the Tar Heels to make a statement with a win that they belong in the discussion for the ACC Coastal Division title. A win would also put the Heels off on the right foot before tough games against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame in the following weeks.

I will save my score predictions for later on in the preseason, but I think the Tar Heels have a better shot that people are giving them to win this game. North Carolina’s offense is explosive enough to take advantage of Clemson’s inexperienced secondary, which lost two cornerbacks form last season. Quinshad Davis presents matchup problems for the Tiger’s replacements at corner, neither of whom top out at taller than 5’11”. This will be a young North Carolina team’s first true road test, and boy is it a tough place to have your first introduction to playing on the road. But the Tar Heels might be able to steal a game there and shock the crowds at Death Valley into silence.