After a brief hiatus the roundtable is back where we discuss UNC's team attitude and the defense.
Brian: I am half tempted to not even talk about the game because I am not sure we can add anything to the statement UNC made in putting up 66 points on Duke. As good as the offense was, isn't the most impressive part of this UNC playing up to its ranking and crushing Duke's throat when given the chance?
Paul: I found the attitude most impressive. Carolina came out and from the first play, had the mentality of lets go destroy Duke. That aggression hasn't been seen in any other game this year and it's that type of attitude that Carolina would need in an ACC championship game. This game hopefully typifies what the Heels attitude is going forward. This team could win 12 or 13 games if they play in that mindset every week.
Doc: Short of the defensive improvement, I think the mentality of this team is the biggest turnaround story. They have been on the same page and haven't folded the way past Carolina teams have. In addition the resilience shown against Georgia Tech may have been the linchpin of the season. Nearly everyone agreed previous Tar Heel teams would not have had the mental fortitude to turn that game around. It's also telling that the players obviously put a lot of emotion into beating Duke. Now the question is, will they do the same against a Miami team with whom they have struggled under Larry Fedora with a division title on the line?
Brian: Honestly this game versus Miami will serve as a huge test to whether the attitude shift is indeed here to stay. Last season UNC rolled Duke over in what was easily the best game the team had played all season. UNC followed that up by laying a massive egg against NC State at home losing 35-7. Then came the putrid effort in the bowl game. For me there are two elements at play. One is the pressure of winning the division and the other is coming off a huge win and dealing with success. The Tar Heels need to attend to the latter and that probably takes care of the former.
As good as the offense was on Saturday, the defense allowed some 2014 level yardage, especially in the run game. How much do we read into the defense against Duke going forward?
Paul: I wrote about this for the report card. I'm concerned about the linebackers. I think the big plays Duke had were plays where the linebackers where beat, lost contain or failed to cover their assignments. Elsewhere on the roster the defense has filled out with recruits who have developed into good players, but the linebackers aren't there yet. Jeff Schoettmer was responsible for the gap Sirk ran through on his touchdown run and he hasn't looked good for the past few weeks. I think he showed last year he can play at a higher level but he needs to get back there for me to feel good about the defense.
Brian: Not to pick on Schoettmer but could one of the reasons he looked good last season was because the rest of the defense was so bad his mistakes didn't stand out nearly as much? Put it this way, he hit his ceiling last year but now with Gene Chizik revamping everything other players have caught up or surpassed him, most notable Shakeel Rashad. He is still a good player but in the new system he be getting exposed a bit, especially when he has to cover receivers.
Paul: I think the rest of the defense's improvement has led opponents to hunt for a weakness. Schoettmer might just be the weakest athlete and it's easier to pick on him in coverage. In his defense, the defensive line could do more to occupy the offensive line. If they consistently get to the second level its hard to expect Schoettmer to deal with a guard or tackle on every play.
Doc: I'm not panicked about the defense just yet. Duke presented some matchup difficulties for UNC so they may be who we thought they were. Carolina gave up some big plays against the Devils and not being gashed for the big play has been one of the biggest differences between the 2014 Heels and the 2015 Heels. We'll have to see if it's a one-off or if offenses are figuring out Gene Chizik's defense.