If anything I am thrilled to even be having the conversation.
On Sunday, Caulton Tudor toss out the idea that UNC would run the table, end up 11-1 overall and possibly sneak into the BCS as an at large team since Virginia Tech would also finish 11-1 and UNC loses a tiebreaker with them. This set off a virtual firestorm of discussion on sports talk and the message boards. JP Giglio offered a nice counterpoint to Tudor which generally follows my line of thinking on the matter.
First of all, Tudor's proclaimation that UNC will run the table is not really shaking the foundations of reality, in fact I alluded to much the same in my season preview:
Of course this is all pure speculation. As easy as it is to see UNC going 8-4, the Heels could in at least three of the those four predicted losses and end up 11-1 making their way to the ACC Championship. That is the beauty of this season and the source of great antcipation surrounding this team. If and yes it is a gargantuan “if” the Heels can play well early, gain some confidence and get swept up in the wave of winning much the same way Wake Forest did two years ago, the sky is the limit for this team. The Heels will walk a fine line however and much like last season so much could come down to a handful of plays across several games promising to both exhilirate and frustrate us all to no end.
UNC entered this season with every game on their schedule a game they could possibly win. There are many reasons why that is the case but the primary one is the 2007 Heels were 4-8 with six losses that came down to "a handful of plays." It stands to reason that the 2008 Heels would be much better and have a legitimate shot at winning every game they played. As it turns out UNC has been able to handle two teams with relative ease, stumbled a bit in the opener, rallied to win at Miami(a game they would have lost last season) and lost to Virginia Tech after leading 17-3. Joe Ovies on 850 has said UNC is operating with a thin margin of error and he is generally right. Last season the Heels were just on the losing side for six of their eight defeats. The key point in turning that around is get across that line to the winning side in those games that were within grasp. I think the defense has a lot to do with that. The offense has really been much the same and that is more true with Cam Sexton in for TJ Yates since Sexton is not nearly as proficient at the big play as Yates is. However the defense has stepped it up. There are still areas they could improve but the linebackers in particular and the knack for snagging INTs has given UNC an advantage in terms of stopping the opposing team's drives. The turnover margin has allowed UNC to get the ball in scoring position more often than their opponent and add to that the defense is scoring points almost on a regular basis.
It would seem Giglio is working along the same lines in his counter argument to Tudor. UNC is good but still has some chinks in the armor that really need to be worked on to afford them the margin of error. Giglio points out that great teams do not lose games like UNC did to Virginia Tech. I partially disagree with that because I think losing Yates did a lot to make that game less winnable for UNC. However, the salient point there is great teams can establish a large enough margin of error to muddle through up 17-3 even if they lose their starting QB. Yates not being on the field had nothing to do with 14 penalties for 121 yards and that is to say nothing of Ron Cherry making things more difficult with inexplicable penalty calls. I utlimtately agree with Giglio that UNC will run into an issue or two down the road that will likely cost them at least two more games. UNC is giving up too many yards on defense to think they are not going to get clipped by either Georgia Tech, Maryland or possibly Boston College. The bend but not break defense has been adequate but sooner or later a break or two will happen.
If we can step back and look at the big picture, we should be nothing less than thrilled to even be having the discussion. The very idea that we can say: "If everything goes well we will be 11-1 but if not then we settle for 9-3" is a mark that this program is leaps and bounds ahead of where it was even last season. In college football you want your program to be one where the floor is eight wins and the potential ceiling is the BCS. UNC is not there yet, but in this season we are seeing the potential for UNC to be a 8-12 win team on a consistent basis. It is a nice place to be when folks start discussiing double digit wins for a young team with a bright future ahead of it.