This is where I ask questions and answer them myself which might be a sign of insanity.
1. Is this the right way to start a season?
Meaning the playing of a game then getting a bye week followed by a Thursday night game. No disrespect directed at McNeese State but the first game almost feels like a preseason game. UNC offensive coordinator John Shoop is on record as saying he did not broach much of the playbook in an effort to conceal UNC's scheme with Rutgers in mind. Given the way it played out that was fine because I am sure the Heels would have had trouble blocking for those plays too. At any rate UNC was handed this one game then 12 days off followed by a huge road game. The tough part of this setup is openers can be a little haphazard revealing some weaknesses. The instinct is to get back on the field as soon as possible following a game like the one UNC played where poor play combined with a weather delay left folks with a lot of questions. Instead of playing a week later, the Heels have to wait five days more then go on the road for a huge nationally televised game. In my mind this is less than ideal, despite the extra time involved that can help correct any issues that arose in the opener. The downside is you have a team of players that have waited a month to play then are forced to wait almost two weeks more after getting their first taste of action. The singular caveat here is Rutgers has done the exact same thing and are probably under more pressure considering the 24-7 loss to Fresno State.
2. How important is this game?
Pretty darn important. For one, the Heels have not won a game on the road outside of North Carolina since 2002 when they knocked off Arizona St. If UNC intends on moving the program forward, collecting a win in a hostile environment before a national TV audience would show the program has some upward momentum. And winning under these circumstances would illustrate some level of maturity for a young team. In terms of the season as a whole this game could be a tone setter. Since the team is still fairly young, performing well in this game could build the confidence needed as the season progresses. A bad loss here would set off plenty of media memes that UNC was overhyped and not quite ready for primetime. High stakes indeed. Granted the season is not irrevocably broken by a loss in this one but a win could do wonders.
3. What are the chances John Swofford starts drinking if UNC loses?
Actually, after two weeks of piss poor performances by ACC teams against other BCS conferences, the better question is whether Swofford will start heavy drinking should the Heels fail to represent the ACC well in another nationally televised game. The Big East-ACC dyanmic has been very tense since Miami, Virginia Tech and Boston College left the conference to join the ACC. The Big East cried foul and the ACC looked like that had pulled quite the coup except for the fact it has not made a great showing on the field. Meanwhile the subsequent falling dominoes garnered the Big East new members and those teams performed quite well making the ACC look rather bad in the process. This season it would appear both conferences are struggling to make a mark. West Vrginia got their collective mountain dwelling rear ends handed to them by ECU and was nearly dropped from the polls leaving South Florida as the only other Big East school in the rankings. Wake Forest maintained their ranking and Clemson found their way back into one of the polls meaning that both conference excel in crapulence at the deepest level. In many ways this game is a way for the ACC to at least strike back and say they are the cleaner of the two pigs in this sty. Not that it would mean much except we all are surrounded by crowing ECU fans so it would be nice if we could collect a big win, even if it comes versus an 0-1 unranked team.
4. Can Butch Davis beat another former assistant?
Davis has a penchant for beating his former assistants. Okay, that is a little over the top since he only has the one win over former assistant Randy Shannon since coming to UNC. I happen to think these story angles over coaches facing former assistants is a little overwrought. In some cases there are advantages, and Davis probably enjoyed some against Miami considering Larry Coker was promoted after Davis left and Shannon worked for Coker before getting the head coach job himself in Coral Gables. Chances are the system was similar which might have helped Davis game plan the Hurricanes. In this case, no such advantage exists. Greg Schiano may have been an assistant under Davis but has been head coach a Rutgers long enough on his own terms to create a new system. Still Davis and Schiano are friends which will be a point of conversation during the broadcast to the point we will wish they had never met.
5. So if UNC wins against Rutgers and Duke is that considered a clean sweep of the major New Jersey schools?
Considering none of the other schools in New Jersey boast a Division I football team beating both Rutgers and Duke would most certainly constitute a shutout of New Jersey football teams by the Heels.