Tomorrow the 2018 college football season ends for North Carolina.
Even Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham agreed when explaining why the university never scheduled a 12th game, after the UCF game was cancelled due to Hurricane Florence. So, with the understanding that most people probably want tomorrow’s game to finish as quickly as possible, what are some things to look for?
Return of Cade?
Two weeks ago, Cade Fortin was healthy enough to be used for a last-second Hail Mary against Duke. It was his first action since hurting his knee against Virginia Tech. It was also his third game of the season, meaning he could only play against Western Carolina OR N.C. State and still keep his redshirt. You, like many, many, many, many others asked why even put Fortin in? That question gained even more validity last week when, Manny Miles performed the same task in the fist half against Western Carolina (and thus, preserving Fortin’s redshirt).
Tomorrow all eyes should be on the quarterback position to see if Fortin makes a late-season return. In that one half against Virginia Tech, it was clear that his arm strength gave a different dimension to the UNC passing game. That will be a welcome site for a passing game that has thrown 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. If there was ever an opponent to exploit, it would be State. They have the worst passing defense in the ACC, allowing over 290 yards per game.
Make Ryan Finley Win the Game
When Wake Forest upset State with back-up sophomore quarterback Jamie Newman, News and Observer beat writer Joe Giglio wrote this piece, examining the loss. Two facts stood out.
First, after starting 36 games for the Wolfpack, Ryan Finley now has fewer game-winning fourth qaurter drives than the aforementioned Jamie Freeman. To clarify, Freeman has exactly one fourth-quarter, game winning drive.
Second, there have been nine opportunities for Finley to deliver such a drive. Exactly 25% of his games as State’s starting QB have ended in a loss because he could not deliver a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter. For a guy who is being projected as a possible first round draft pick, one might expect a little more delivery in the clutch.
While UNC has it’s own issues with stopping late game drives, I think most reasonable people would be pleased if the Heels were in such a position on Saturday.
Fedora’s Job Status
There has not been any indication that North Carolina is going to fire Larry Fedora after a second consecutive losing season. Though, one might argue there hasn’t been any indication that they won’t make a change. Win or lose, nobody outside of Bubba Cunningham and maybe some powerful boosters have any real knowledge of the coaching situation.
Many of us know what happens when a coaching decision is made off the emotions of one big win. Somewhere Carl Torbush and John Bunting are smiling. However, there are reasonable arguments that Fedora deserves one more year to fix the goat rodeo he has created. A win in a major rivalry game may give him just enough breathing room to finish out the decade in Chapel Hill.
If a decision has already been made to let him go, then the clock starts as soon as the final whistle blows to find a replacement.