UNC(0-1) vs Middle Tennessee St(1-0), 12:30 PM, ACC Network
The Tar Heels open the home portion of the regular season schedule in hopes of righting the ship at 1-1 before facing three of the next four games against Coastal Division foes. That makes this game a real chance to work out some kinks, something playing against a top ten team probably doesn't allow you to do. MTSU is not your run-of-the-mill pushover, at least that wasn't the case last season when the Blue Raiders beat Georgia Tech 49-28. That result is a stark reminder that MTSU could cause problems and even Conference USA teams have a better idea about stopping the triple-option than the Tar Heels apparently do.
Seeing this is the first game of the season at Kenan Stadium, I have my doubts the Tar Heels will come out flat. There will be plenty of motivation to play well coming off the loss at South Carolina. Going into an 0-2 hole would be fairly disastrous given the upcoming schedule. It also would be catastrophic seeing this is a team UNC can and should beat. Yes, the Blue Raiders start a senior quarterback, Logan Kilgore, who was solid last season and effective in MTSU's season opener before leaving the game with a shoulder injury. A poise and experienced quarterback won't be intimidated by surroundings or rattled very easily.
UNC enters this game facing multiple questions concerning both the offense and defense. In the case of the latter, everyone wants to know if the defense is going to improve. The shift from playing South Carolina to Middle Tennessee State probably means the defense will take a step in the right direction. Things like tackling, coverages and getting stops on third down still bear watching. This is also a situation where should MTSU become the latest team to exploit UNC's defensive weaknesses, the shadow of panic will likely start to creep in, especially with Georgia Tech the next opponent on the schedule. Should UNC bottle up MTSU and do what its supposed to, it probably won't mean much but it is certainly better than the alternative.
On the offensive side of the ball, I would expect Larry Fedora and Blake Anderson to open up the playbook more than they did nine days ago. The South Carolina defense and particularly one player forced the Tar Heels into calling plays designed to prevent Renner from being too long in the pocket and inviting a sack. There will be less concern for that in this matchup which means Renner will be looking to stretch the field. TE Eric Ebron and WR Quinshad Davis will be much bigger factors since they will more than likely enjoy some advantages in their respective match-ups with the Blue Raider defense. Likewise, it will be interesting to see if there is a balancing of the rushing load carried by Romar Morris and A.J. Blue or if one of those backs emerges as more of a primary option.
Avoiding an 0-2 start is paramount as is building some confidence. UNC gets a bye week before facing Georgia Tech and it would be nice to head into that break a win under the team's belt and a feel for what it's like to execute well.
UNC 55 MTSU 21