North Carolina at Clemson, 7:00 PM, ESPNU
To say there is little or no confidence in UNC for this game is an understatement. The nature of last week's loss to East Carolina has sent the season perilously close to a tailspin. The odd thing is, UNC losing to ECU, even if the Tar Heels were closer to living up to expectations wouldn't necessarily had been a surprise. Likewise a loss in this game wouldn't be a disaster from a win-loss perspective. This was always a game UNC was likely to lose and an 0-1 start in the ACC is actually a pretty familiar position for the Tar Heels.
Of course the reality of the eye test means the expectations has plummeted like a rock. UNC was fairly unimpressive in getting to 2-0 and downright awful in falling to 2-1. The defense was nearly non-existent at times and was further banged up in the process. The offense, Larry Fedora's calling card, has produced some nice yardage but has trouble putting together consistent drives. The absence of sustaining drives puts even more pressure on the defense which must go back on the field on short rest and without some semblance of matching the opposing team.
Given what Clemson has shown so far this season neither unit stands to fare well against the Tigers. Clemson has the ability to control the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Newly minted starting QB Deshaun Watson showed enough passing acumen against FSU last week to more than handle the Tar Heel secondary. In UNC's past two trips to Death Valley, Clemson has scored 50 or more points. All signs point to this being a third straight game of that nature.
Still, Marquise Williams is a capable quarterback and if the Heels can get the offense into a rhythm then it might be possible to match blows with Clemson should the trend of defensive futility continue. UNC is not lacking for offensive talent but for some reason the unit hasn't quite gelled yet this season. It is possible the switch in offensive coordinators has led to some odd play calling and not everyone being comfortable with each other. However this is the fourth game of the season so getting past those issues and finding some sort of offensive groove is a necessity at this stage. The lack of the running game has been at the forefront of head-scratching moves by the new offensive staff. Some of that is likely owed to the lack of an offensive line though it still seems odd not to try and do more with the stable of backs the Tar Heels have.
It is also worth noting that Ryan Switzer continues to be quiet. So much expected of Switzer after his breakout season of 2013 but the 2014 campaign has yielded very little. Part of the issue is Switzer can't return punts if UNC's defense doesn't force them. The other issue is Switzer has not proven to be nearly as effective within the offense and one would have hoped. All that being said, Switzer is UNC's most dynamic player and getting the ball to him is incredibly important.
Again, a win here wasn't even something people expected to start the season and while moral victories are generally worthless, UNC showing some signs of turning the caliber of play around would be nice. Larry Fedora's teams have shown great resiliency such as bouncing back from a 1-5 start last season. This game is an opportunity to show some of that perseverance now.
Clemson 43 UNC 21