If Ty Lawson's injury taught me anything it is to wait and see when a key player goes down.
Consider this email to Heather Dinich at ESPN ACC Blog and her response:
Justin in Charlotte writes: As a UNC alum, that was awful news and will be a devastating hit to our chances to even make a bowl game. I guess it's hard to fully assess Paulus from a little over a quarter of play, but it did not look good to say the least. I think it's looking more like a 5-7 season at this point. What are your thoughts?
Heather Dinich: Yeah, I'm not going to criticize a redshirt freshman who has been thrown into this situation, but I will say the loss of Yates has it looking bleak. UConn deserves some credit. As poorly as Notre Dame has played, that's still not a given. When I look at their schedule I think the bye week comes at a perfect time for Yates to return. It would give him some time to get out and practice before Georgia Tech. If it's any later than that, the team is in trouble. Who knows what Paulus will do, though.
Before I talk about people thinking we are doomed for 5-7 now let me take some logical C4 to Dinich's response. Dinich is asserting that if Yates does not return for the Georgia Tech game, UNC will be in trouble. But it stands to reason if Paulus or Sexton are not handling the job at QB, UNC will already be in trouble. Right? It is not like there is much difference in the schedule between October and November, both stretches have tough games in them. She does attempt to cover with the classic "well we just don't know" line but that is a given. The season could be made or broke over the next five games. If Paulus is Joe Dailey and Sexton is...well...Sexton from 2006 then Yates could inherit a team sitting at 3-5 at which point his presence may not matter much.
That being said, the very fact we have no idea how Paulus or Sexton will handle the job is why talk of going 5-7 is premature. Heck, even if UNC loses at Miami, talk of 5-7 is still premature. The Virginia Tech game was a toss-up and the Miami game was too, even before Yates got hurt. The games on the schedule UNC was expected to win are the ones you should worry about in Yates absence. If UNC loses on Saturday and sits at 2-2 they have the following teams left on the schedule: UConn, Notre Dame, UVa, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Maryland, NCSU, Duke. Five of those games are at home and despite the fact that UNC has not won at UVa since 1981 does not dissuade me from the possibility they can beat the Cavaliers using Brandon Tate alone on special teams(yes the UVa offense is that bad.) The games at Maryland and Duke are a concern but Yates should be back for those assuming the rehab goes well. Yes, Paulus or Sexton must step up and play mistake free football in the meantime but by no means does this look like it is heading into a disaster of a season.
In short UNC can go 3-2 during five games with Yates out and then go 2-2 when Yates returns to get to 7-5. In that scenario UNC can flip any two games from a loss to a win and end up 9-3. And while the converse could happen, I think the defense and special teams play will keep UNC viable in many games while the offense finds itself over the next five weeks. So please come back off the ledge, it will be okay.