I Know This Team is Different. But Saturday at State Still Scares Me


Here is one fan’s perspective heading into the North Carolina Tar Heels’ big matchup against the North Carolina State Wolfpack on Saturday.

All season long, I have enjoyed every single Tar Heel football victory wholeheartedly. Last weekend, I wrote how fun it was for diehard fans to watch the team clinch the Coastal in such dramatic fashion. This team is so much fun; the combination of offensive firepower and defensive swagger creates an entertaining on-field product that is very easy to root for and watch.

But after every win, I look at the next game on the schedule and get nervous. I got nervous ahead of the Illinois game. The Georgia Tech game. The Duke game. The Miami game. The Virginia Tech game. Each time though, the team makes my nervousness look silly. The team is on a 10 game win streak. I shouldn’t be nervous anymore heading into game that UNC is favored by six in, considering how good this football team is. But I still am.

See, the wounds of 2014 are still too fresh. Here is a graphic 100% stolen from Bill Connelly’s excellent UNC Football preview written back in the summer.

This graph shows how well the Tar Heels played in each game last season. See the peaks and valleys? The sharp, unexpected dips? That was the 2014 Tar Heels. I remember the feeling of beating the heck out of Duke on Thursday night and then watching the team get demolished against N.C. State 10 or so days later. That inexplicable change in game-to-game performance leaves a scar. A deep scar. It takes more than a season to heal those wounds.

This year, the per-game percentile performance graph has been straight up for the Tar Heels, without any massive dips like the ones seen at the end of last season. The team’s worst game and only loss came in September in the first game on the schedule. Since then, the team has looked better and better and better as the wins have piled up. Sure, last weekend’s win against VT wasn’t as pretty as some of the others, but the team is still growing and getting better each week.

North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina Tar Heels /

North Carolina Tar Heels

So why do I still look ahead to the next game with a dash of doubt each week? Here’s the thing — I remember the dips and dives from 2014, and I just keep waiting for the dip to happen this year. As if everything I’ve seen is too good to be true. Remember, this is Carolina football. I know we’ve gotten better and Chizik is here and #InMarquiseWeTrust, but… things aren’t suppose to be this good.

After last season and so many years before, I’m conditioned to wait for the sky to fall out.

The weekend following each win, I look ahead and think “this is the game where UNC falls back to earth.” Those thoughts have only strengthened this week looking ahead to N.C. State. While they may not have the same number of quality wins as the Heels, they are still a good football team. And I remember what they did to UNC last year. And I remember that this is N.C. State vs. UNC, the date that Wolfpack fans circle in their Farmer’s Almanac’s each season. (Couldn’t resist taking one shot at Pack fans, sorry).

So the Tar Heel football team marches into Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday afternoon as the 14th ranked team in the latest College Football Playoff poll. They march in as team that hasn’t lost a football game since September 3rd. They march in as the Coastal Division Champions. But call me a bad fan, a disloyal fan, whatever — I’m still nervous as heck for a road matchup against N.C. State.

I can’t wait to watch how the 2015 Tar Heels prove my doubts wrong once again.