UNC wins the Coastal Division and now attention turns to NC State and finishing the regular season 11-1.
Brian: Coastal. Division. Champs.
UNC's football history dictated the Tar Heels would make clinching the division as difficult as possible and they did with back-to-back fumbles. The way UNC was moving the ball the Tar Heels probably could have shut the door but didn't.
Of course the question is should the game been that close given the reluctance to use Elijah Hood in the first half. What did you make of the game plan and is there a concerted effort to "save" Hood for the second half so he be used as a blunt instrument on a tired defense?
Paul: I think this was more of a bad Marquise game than anything else. The play calling that struck me most was the Heels' failure to throw the ball down the field and after awhile, they stopped even trying to stretch the field vertically. I really expected more Mack Hollins and even more Ryan Switzer, it seemed like he was in the dog house after his early muffed punt. This could have been a case of trying to save everyone for State and Clemson, especially considering how mush Carolina slammed the door shut in overtime. The Hood note would be concerning if they had not given him the ball whenever he wanted it against Miami. I think that we aren't really questioning the play calling if Williams does not fumble the ball that first time in the fourth quarter. The Heels could have scored and been up 21 late and we would all be a lot more comfortable.
Doc: I just got the vibe that the play calling was playing not to lose. After the first, relatively easy touchdown drive, UNC seemed like it was just going to lean on Marquise Williams even though this was clearly a Bad Quise game. As usual, Bud Foster had Carolina scouted well and took away a lot of what the Heels wanted to do in both the vertical passing game and in keeping a spy on Quise to keep him from going crazy on the ground. I didn't see UNC routinely taking advantage of what the Hokies were giving them, namely the edges on the ground and the dink and dump passes. Brandon Fritts hauled in three big gainers and the Switzer reception in overtime that set up the game winner were examples of working the seams opened up by the linebacker spying the quarterback.
Please tell me in what world your 1,000-yard back only gets three carries in the first half in a 7-3 game? And hello, how about actually letting Elijah Hood touch the ball in the 4th quarter to stay in bounds and keep the ball off the ground?
The poor offensive line, though. Woof. How does a college offensive line get seven - SEVEN - false start penalties? And for everyone who said Hood should have touched the ball in the red zone against SCAR - how did that work out for Carolina in the third quarter on Saturday? It was so bad even Quise couldn't get a yard behind Landon Turner, his Outland Trophy candidate guard.
In the end, though, it was a game UNC had no business winning, but yet found a way to win. That's how you put together 10-game winning streaks - finding a way to win at less than your A-game.
Brian: Now the attention turns to NC State since UNC is very much in the discussion for the CFP Top Four if the Tar Heels can beat the Wolfpack then take down #1 Clemson. Is there any concern about a letdown or does that CFP angle plus last year's 35-7 beatdown keep them focused? Or is this a team that has the fire lit consistently as a good, experienced team does?
Paul: I would be more concerned if they had not taken a nuclear weapon to Duke a few weeks ago. I also don't think this State team is any good, they haven't beaten a power 5 team who ended the season with a winning record in two years. Carolina is better than State and as these past few weeks have shown, the Heels seem to be over their past history of shooting themselves in the foot.
Brian: The issue here is this is NC State's bowl game. Yeah, they are going to end up in a bowl game somewhere but I guarantee if you asked the fan base which one they'd want, it would be this one. I am not enamored by the match-up given Jacoby Brissett's ability to run the football. I think that might make getting off the field on third down much tougher.
The Wolfpack have won six of the last eight and includes 41-10 and 35-7 wins over UNC. Not sure it will happen but it would be nice if the Tar Heels could roll NC State in similar fashion.
Doc: The interesting thing is, if it were anyone other than NC State, we would be describing this as a trap game. The problem for UNC is that they are only theoretically, but not realistically, in the CFP discussion. They would have to win out and have a ton of carnage above them for that to happen. But Carolina can play its way into a New Year's Six bowl by beating Clemson, so really that's the focus game. They have to play the following week while State doesn't, so the Pack has nothing to lose and a month to heal before their next game while Carolina has to go to Charlotte to face the #1 team in the country. It's quite a dilemma. It's a lot to ask of a team to get up to clinch the division, then get up for a huge rivalry game, and then get up for a conference championship game. On the other hand, that's what big-time teams have to do so we will see what they are made of.
Brian: And that is a huge point. No one ever questions whether Alabama has what it takes to beat LSU then win the Iron Bowl then the SEC Championship. Granted, UNC isn't Alabama but in relative terms, if UNC is a top ten team(and despite the CFP keeping them on the outside, plenty evidence they are) then winning the division, beating a rival then playing the conference championship game is the road you need to walk. If UNC wants to play with the big boys then dropping a game to NC State isn't really an option, especially since the Tar Heels are favored.
It should be noted that following the Duke game, the UNC players were already using "go to hell State" as the tagline for "I'm a Tar Heel Born" when they sang it in the locker room postgame. I think they want this one.
Doc: Remember that Fedora made beating State a priority when he came but that was quickly displaced by focusing on Duke because of the divisional implications.
It should also be pointed out that we always said "State" at the end of the Tar Heel Tag when I was a student in the late 80s - early 90s. Then Swofford and the N&O conspired to take down State and send them on a 20-year walk through the wilderness and then UNC supplanted them in the song with "Duke".
Paul: I think the team is worked up for these games. Fedora has been able to get this team up for every big game this season since the opener. I think he understands the team and knows how to motivate them when needed. I am not concerned with this game as a trap and I really think they'll get to 11-1.