After a brief scare on Saturday, the Tar Heels begin ACC play this week with a 3:30 bout against the Pittsburgh Panthers. Both teams will enter Kenan Stadium with a 2-1 record, and with eyes on the ACC Coastal Division championship.
Frankly, the season’s first three games were fairly meaningless. Yes, it would have been nice to knock off Georgia, enter conference play 3-0, and be in the “dark horse title contender” discussion; but in reality, winning the Coastal Division is the more attainable prize.
With that in mind, this is by far the biggest week of the Tar Heels’ season thus far. The Panthers lost a back-and-forth battle to a solid Oklahoma State team this week, and will enter Chapel Hill as a trendy pick to win the division. A win this week would be a significant step for the Tar Heels towards accomplishing their goal of winning the Coastal Division; and, with what we’ve seen so far, any step forward would be a welcome one.
After three weeks, there is approximately zero clarity in the Coastal Division race. Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech are both 1-0 in conference with wins over Boston College, and both are coming off their most impressive performances of the year. Until we see otherwise, both teams could absolutely challenge for the title.
Miami took care of business against Appalachian State on Saturday, obliterating Vegas’ absurd 4-point spread. The Hurricanes are off this week before traveling to Georgia Tech on October 1st, and remain a serious contender for the Coastal Division title. The Tar Heels, of course, spotted JMU a 21-14 lead before finishing the game on a 42-7 run. Honestly, all we know at this point is that Duke and UVA are NOT going to win the division.
Finally, we have Pitt. The Panthers lost their top WR Dontez Ford last week, but still boast a potent rushing attack, headlined by James Conner. Larry Fedora has had Pitt’s number since arriving in Chapel Hill, but the Heels will need to find a way to contain the run game in order to continue their success against the Panthers
Can the Tar Heels avoid another slow start and slow down the Panthers’ run game? Will Mitch Trubisky continue to play at the #elite level he’s showed the last two games? Is any Coastal Division team ready to separate itself from the pack?
We’ll address all of these questions and more this week, so stay tuned to Tar Heel Blog; and most of all, if you live within driving distance of Kenan Stadium, make plans to be there on Saturday!