Now that the Heels are officialy ineligible for a bowl bid, I was curious as to what they had left to play for. Sure, there's the Victory Bell, but a lone game against Duke football isn't the big inspiration it may be in other sports. And I took a look at the abysmal Coastal Division, and realized UNC is playing for third place.
This isn't a win out and hope for an unlikely row of dominoes to all fall in Carolina's favor - UNC is in the driver's seat. The Coastal Division currently falls out like this:
Virginia 6-1 9-2 Virginia Tech 5-1 8-2 Georgia Tech 3-4 6-4 Miami 2-4 5-5 UNC 2-4 3-7 Duke 0-7 1-9
Georgia Tech's last ACC game is against the Heels next Saturday. UNC then finishes the season against Duke, while Miami plays Virginia Tech and Boston College.
Now even if Miami wins out - and the embarassment that closed out the Orange Bowl isn't about to do that - the Canes, with losses to both UNC and Tech need a near-impossible confluence of upsets to take third. The winner of next week's Carolina-GT is almost guaranteed to be the best Coastal team outside of the state of Virginia.
The game is an immenently winnable road game for the Heels. Tech only managed a 7-0 win over last year's team, and UNC has improved immensely while the Jackets have regressed. Of course, I believe I said similar things before the Wake Forest game.
Now, duelling it out for third in the weaker half of the ACC may not seem all that impressive, but considering what Carolina was projected to do this season, it's a fair accomplishment. This was a team expected to win three games or less, and who only the most irrational bloggers thought would finish higher than fifth. Even if third place says more about the weakness of the division than a resurgence in Chapel Hill, it's a good first year to build on. Here's to it happening.