It seems hard to believe that the UNC football team would need any extra motivation playing the University of Georgia the opening week of the season, being that the game is nationally televised and will be played in front of a sold out Georgia Dome (probably filled with 80% Bulldog fans).
However, along with a lopsided prediction shown by ESPN (as seen in the Elijah Hood tweet below), there are some additional motivating factors for the team, coaches, and individual players leading up to the first game on September 3rd.
*Note: Does anyone actually believe that a UNC team that returns seven starters will only score 13 points, as well as, get blown out by 27 points (currently Georgia is a three-point favorite)?
I guess I need to do some more sled pushes now... pic.twitter.com/3MTctOg8Cd— Elijah Hood 3⃣4⃣ (@So_Hood34) June 29, 2016
The current Tar Heel football team will be motivated by last year’s 17-13 loss in the opening week to South Carolin. The team does not want history to repeat itself. Similar to last year, this is an opening week game, at a neutral site, against an SEC opponent with a possible unproven quarterback (if freshman sensation Jacob Eason starts). Even after winning 11 games in a row last year, week after week the team heard criticism and had to answer questions with regards to their opening week loss.
If this team wants to be taken seriously as a national contender and considered for the college football playoff, it will need to win the Georgia game because of the two FCS teams on the schedule. Also, all of the talk last year was that UNC took advantage of a weak schedule and didn’t beat any really good teams. So, a win against a ranked pre-season top 25 team (essentially on the road) will silence those critics quickly.
Ryan Switzer will be motivated to try and make history on a national stage by tying (or even breaking) the punt return for touchdowns record held by Wes Welker and Antonio Perkins. It will also be a chance for him to showcase his talents to NFL scouts, and prove that he is worthy of being selected in one of the early rounds of the 2017 draft.
The team can be motivated to go out and avenge the 1971 football team that lost 7-3 to the Bulldogs in the Gator Bowl, which was the last time these two teams played (it is safe to assume that both teams will probably score more points than this in the first 5-10 minutes of the game). This game also pitted the Dooley brothers, Bill and Vince, in a coaching match-up against one another.
Larry Fedora and his coaching staff are motivated to go out and dispel any thought that last year’s team was just a flash in the pan, and that they can build and improve on the previous year’s success. Also, the staff doesn’t want to go in the history books (better known as Wikipedia) as Kirby Smart’s first head coaching victory. Smart, one of the biggest hires of this past off-season in college football, will be one of seven coaches that Fedora faces in the upcoming season that has a new coaching job. A signature victory against Georgia would go a long way in showing that Fedora is one of the up and coming stars in the college coaching ranks.
There are a lot of question marks heading into the season surrounding UNC’s run defense, especially after giving up 645 rushing yards against Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl. In order for the Tar Heels to be successful on a national level, the defensive line will be motivated to improve on last year’s bowl performance and season ranking (ranked 121st in rush yards allowed per game). In its second year under Gene Chizik, this group will get an early test against a talented Bulldog rushing attack (even though there is a lot of uncertainty about who will be in the backfield for Georgia vs. UNC).
Mitch Trubisky has the motivation to go out and demonstrate that he is capable of leading this team both on and off the field, especially with having to fill the big shoes of his former teammate, Marquise Williams. All eyes will be on Trubisky to see whether or not he can handle the pressure, and is able to perform on the big stage against Georgia. If Trubisky can have a strong performance in the first game, it will help give the quarterback (and his team) a lot of confidence moving forward, especially in a season with such high expectations for the offense.
Along with Clemson, the Tar Heels will be motivated to go out and prove the strength of the ACC, and that some of the best teams in the country reside in the conference. It will be a huge test for both teams, but one that can go a long way in proving to people across the country that the ACC can compete with the “mighty” SEC. Certainly, these games will have a huge impact down the road when one or maybe even two teams from the conference are competing for a College Football Playoff spot.
Through “Blue Dawn” videos that motivate the fan base to get excited for the upcoming season, the Summer Challenge that motivates the players to work hard in the classroom, and Fedora’s Freak Show that motivates top recruits to commit to the Tar Heels. Motivation has been used, from the moment that Fedora stepped foot on UNC’s campus, as a major tool in helping to build a successful football program. He could look to use these factors, along with others, to serve as motivation for the Tar Heels all the way through training camp and leading up to the game on September 3rd vs. Georgia.