The ACC finally released next season's football schedules yesterday, after a two-week delay to accommodate Florida State replacing West Virginia (who dropped the game as a consequence of going the Big 12) and Georgia Tech's search for an unchallenging Week 2 opponent. With those two conditions finally settled, we now know UNC's slate of games, and it's pretty underwhelming:
|9/8/2012||at Wake Forest|
|9/22/2012||vs. East Carolina|
|10/6/2012||vs. Virginia Tech|
|10/27/2012||vs. N.C. State|
|11/10/2012||vs. Georgia Tech|
|11/15/2012||at Virginia (Thurs.)|
The first thing you'll notice is that any sense of tradition and rivalry has been pitched straight out the window. It's the first time since 1982 the regular season hasn't ended against Duke or N.C. State; both are October games this year. The schedule seems tailor-made for Tar Heel fans to abandon for basketball if things don't go well. After the bye, only the Virginia game has any passion for the fans, and it runs right up against the start of hoops season. If you were designing a schedule to sap all interest from Carolina football, you couldn't do much better than this.
That being said, this is a schedule UNC can do very well against. Their Atlantic opponents include Maryland and Wake Forest, who finished 2-10 and 6-7 respectively. They get most of their toughest opponents at home – Virginia Tech, N.C. State, and Georgia Tech – and of the road venues, only Virginia is a particularly fearsome place for UNC to play. Most importantly, after years of opening ACC play with a loss to Georgia Tech, the Heels play them in November, after a bye. For some reason, Paul Johnson's teams are invincible in September and very, very mortal in November. I'm excited about this if nothing else.
To be honest, there's a decent chance the Tar Heels could roll into their November Thursday night game as a one-loss or even undefeated team. (They also benefit from playing VT and Miami the week after hyped games for each team at FedEx Field and Soldier Field, respectively.) Whether this UNC team, led by a second-year quarterback learning a new offense who no longer has Dwight Jones on the other end of his passes and a defense coming into its own under a new coach remains to be seen. The odds are not good in that regard, but Larry Fedora is being given every chance to succeed in his first season at the helm by the ACC front office. Let's see what he can do.