The season ends for the postseason banned Tar Heels with a post-Thanksgiving title against Maryland.
Not that anyone thinks UNC will come out with a less than optimal effort against Maryland, the question of whether this game means anything naturally arises. First of all, it it comes after Thanksgiving which is bound to create a little hangover effect. Then there is a question of importance. UNC cannot finish first in the Coastal Division, at least not outright. The Heels could end up in a three way 5-3 tie with Miami and Georgia Tech atop the division but that is it. Since there is no postseason to look to this game is pretty much about winning eight games. That, in and of itself, is extremely important since it gets the program under Larry Fedora pointed in the right direction. UNC is playing for program momentum and possibly conference pride given Maryland recently announced defection to the Big Ten. Oh and there is this little thing called "Senior Day" happening in Chapel Hill which should get the blood pumping if nothing else does.
In terms of individual play, Bryn Renner is three touchdowns and 367 yards away from school records in passing touchdowns and yards. Giovani Bernard is not looking towards any record but has been a little quiet lately. Since no one knows if Bernard will return in 2013, a huge game from him here would be a nice sendoff should he pull the trigger on the NFL Draft. Likewise Sylvester Williams, Jonathan Cooper and Kevin Reddick, just to name a few, will be suiting up for the last time as Tar Heels. One would expect their play to illustrate that.
Maryland brings the second best defense in the ACC to Kenan Stadium. In ACC play, this is the toughest defense the Heels have faced all season. Maryland held Georgia Tech to 33 points which was a season high in points allowed until Clemson put up 45 on the Terps followed by FSU going for 41. So the possibility of Maryland surrendering big points exists and will depend greatly on how well the Terps handled the spread offense.
Offensively speaking, the Terps are in a bind having lost four QBs this season and now riding on a linebacker turned QB named Shawn Petty to lead the team. Petty has been serviceable though it appears he is not being asked to do much. Petty has not thrown more then 19 times in any game but has 5 TDs vs 1 INT in three contests. With a solid WR in Stefon Diggs and UNC's secondary, anything is possible. Given how little Maryland is throwing the football, the pressure is on the run defense to come through but also the pass rush to make any passing attempts dicey propositions.
Since this is the end of the season and possibly Bernard's last game, seeing these Tar Heels go out on a winning note by giving Larry Fedora an 8-4 start to his UNC tenure would be really nice to see.
UNC 35 Maryland 19