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Week Two Roundtable

Doc, Paul and I discuss UNC's win over NC A&T, the upcoming Illinois game and how important a win would be.

Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Brian: UNC throttled NC A&T 53-14 on Saturday where the most exciting part of the evening was the Aggie band playing at halftime.

One interesting development that's worth discussing is the reemergence of Fedora's need to rotate Mitch Trubisky into the game. There was very much a  "here we go again" feeling among the fans when this started. Where is Fedora going with this? Was it just using an FCS game to get a backup meaningful reps or something else?

Fedora says it was just to have him ready to go at a moment's notice. He said he did the same thing with Andre Smith, inserting him at middle linebacker to have him ready to go for Jeff Schoettmer. I do think it was interesting it was the third series, though. If Williams had gotten off to a bad start, it would have been an interesting time to give him the hook.

Brian: I think the real test here is if he keeps doing it regardless of the circumstances. That was the big complaint last year. Trubisky was going in on the third series no matter what was going on in the game and there was times it disrupted rhythm. I will say this, Trubisky certainly looked a lot better than he did in these stints last season. Grain of salt warning and what not because of the opposition but he was definitely more comfortable. Maybe not knowing it was going to happen helped in that respect.

Doc: You also have to wonder how many series Fedora would try to sneak for Trubisky over the course of the season. Obviously he is the future and given that Williams has been banged up periodically, Trubisky may be called upon sooner rather than later. Like Brian said, the key will be whether or not he begins to go in on the 3rd series in other games, or only against lemons. I guess that question will be answered pretty early against a surprising Illinois team.

Speaking of Illinois, they fired their coach less than a month before the first game and yet they have shown few signs of turmoil in outscoring their first two opponents 96-3 after struggling against similar opponents last season. How worried should we be about the Illini?

Paul: We should not be that worried about them that much since they weren't supposed to be good before they fired their coach. I'm also doing a complete 180 on Larry Fedora's Mitch Trubisky policy. This is just fun now--I'm going to just grin madly every time Trubisky comes in. I'm starting to think that the Larry Fedora era is just going to be what it is and maybe we can hope that he eventually learns how to adjust to games as they evolve. Marquise Williams did look a lot better this week, maybe he needs to feel Trubisky on his heels as motivation to perform?

Brian: Fedora reiterated today that it was an exercise to get reps for Trubisky. I suppose that makes it a lot like a fire drill but without the shrill alarm. Barring Williams falling apart versus Illinois or UNC blowing the Illini out Trubisky probably doesn't see the field next week. When Delaware comes to town will be a difference story.

As for Illinois, despite big points numbers, the Illini are just 88th in yards per play and 65th in yards per game. In terms of yardage that's not prolific production but clearly enough to average close to 50 points per game. Quarterback Wes Lunt is way better than Connor Mitch and the Illinois defense has been pretty stingy.

In the grand scheme of the season how important is this game? A loss here probably has UNC 2-2 going into ACC play and probably headed to Shreveport with a 4-4 league record. I hate to use the word "must win" but if the program is going to take a step forward this season, this is a game UNC can't lose right?

I thought with 2 FCS teams, UNC had to have 7 wins for a bowl, although with 80+ slots I think they can appeal to get in.

In addition to some shaky statistical numbers, Illinois also had four turnovers on Saturday. The Illini haven't faced a P5 team yet so at least UNC has an advantage there, nor have they played on the road. It will be a step up for them too.

Fedora said Illinois is better than SCAR but SCAR is clearly on a downward trajectory. But I do think this is a must-win, not only for bowl eligibility but just for the general status of the program.

Paul: Frankly, if they lose to Illinois, is there a guarantee that they even get a 4-4 league record? I for one, would not be surprised if Trubisky sees the field in each game into ACC play. This game should be a second test for Gene Chizik, the defense will probably need to show up if Carolina wants to win. If the Heels lose this game, I'm not confident that they get to a bowl (isn't there a rule where you can only use 1 win against an FCS team to stay bowl eligible?). And if they don't get to a bowl...then that seat becomes quite hot for Mr. Fedora.

Brian: My bad...forgot about the two FCS wins rule.

To Paul's point, if UNC isn't good enough to beat Illinois at home with an experienced offense then the chances of grabbing five wins(four if they can appeal) aren't great. For the sake of bowl eligibility, program momentum and keeping the fan base from slipping into an apathy coma until basketball season starts, a win here is probably necessary.

Doc: Excellent point. If you can't beat a 2nd-tier B1G team, it will be hard to find 5 ACC wins regardless of the weak perception of the league.

Another 6-win season or slump to 5 will raise eyebrows but Fedora's seat will not be officially warm until next year. He is in year 4 of a 7-year deal and it was 7 for a reason. But really with an improved defense and 10 returning starters, 7 wins is not too much to ask, is it?

Paul: I'm just not sure that Bubba Cunningham feels the same way. This and next year are supposed to be the good ones with this group of players. I know that Fedora has 3 more years under contract but at the same time, the athletic department is making enough money that Carolina could move on from Fedora after this season. I think the hiring of Chizik shows that Cunningham is poised to be very aggressive when it comes to football. I think his expectations are that this year or next Carolina wins the division. This might have been Fedora's own success biting him in the butt since the Heels were good right when he got here.

Doc: I'm not so sure about that. UNC is dealing with 3 years of debilitating recruiting restrictions, which is why Fedora got a 7-year deal. Anything less than a bowl will start the rumor mill but I just don't think Bubba pulls the trigger this year unless Fedora bombs out at 3-9 or 2-10 to go along with Rutgers-like dumpster fire issues. Also remember the politics and intricacies of the NCAA mess. As that will still be unresolved as of the end of this football season, I don't think Bubba bails on Fedora while the NCAA's sword of Damocles is still over the program's head.

So back to Illinois - it is pretty much a must-win in that if you want to argue your program has turned the corner - and to keep the temperature of your seat a little cooler - these are the kinds of games you win, plain and simple. Fedora is 0-4 versus non-conference Power 5 teams at UNC and missed a shot at SCAR two weeks ago. Carolina needs a win this weekend on a number of levels.

Paul: I like that 0-4 stat. That supports my Fedora thoughts. I guess I'll change my question, what would Fedora need to do in the next three years to get an extension? He has to win the division in his final year right? I think if that doesn't happen, then he doesn't last.