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Football Preview: UNC vs. Old Dominion

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Larry Fedora knows how many more wins UNC needs to be bowl eligible
Larry Fedora knows how many more wins UNC needs to be bowl eligible
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Old Dominion at North Carolina, 12:00 Noon, RSN (Fox Sports Carolinas)

Carolina returns to Kenan Stadium for the final two games of the season riding a four-game winning streak and with bowl eligibility on the line. For the first time, the Tar Heels will play Old Dominion in football, as the Monarchs are making the transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision. As ODU is in the limbo zone between FBS and FCS, they are ineligible for the postseason, making this their final game of the season and their de facto "bowl game".

The Monarchs come to Chapel Hill with a record of 8-3, and also have a four-win streak going. Seven of their wins have come against FCS competition. but they are only 1-3 vs. FBS opponents. Moreover, the Heels and Monarchs have played two common opponents: Pitt and East Carolina. ODU fell to ECU 52-38 in the season opener, and lost to Pitt 34-25 in October after staking a 10-0 lead against the Panthers.

Old Dominion is led by one of the nation's top passers in Tyler Heinicke, who last year won the FCS equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. Heinicke threw for almost 350 yards with 3 touchdowns last week against Campbell, and and that came on the heels of a 533-yard, four touchdown effort against Idaho the previous week. Given the fact that UNC's seemingly improved pass defense was suddenly torched last week against Pitt, there will be added pressure on the Tar Heel front seven to pressure Heinicke and not let him pick apart the secondary. The good news is that ODU does not run the ball very well, as top rusher Cam Boyd averages less than 50 yards per game. On the defensive end, ODU has had some struggles, especially against the run. The Monarchs give up over 400 yards per game, and most of that has been against FCS competition.

ODU is certainly no pushover, as they have had great success at the FCS level and in notching eight wins in this transition year. On the other hand, despite the gaudy record, ODU has only played three opponents out of 11 with winning records. The combined records of the eight teams ODU has beaten is 27-61. UNC can't get caught looking past the Monarchs to Duke, or to a possible bowl game. Focus on winning this game and everything else is a bonus.

UNC 38, Old Dominion 27