Halloween is right around the corner, so it’s the perfect time for a little fright! As it so happens, Carolina will be in one of the spookiest places in college football on Halloween night. With its secret society tags all over campus, and a bunch of dudes in blue sports coats and orange slacks, Charlottesville can be unsettling to the uninitiated.
The Virginia football team shouldn’t be as scary now that Bryce Perkins is gone (can someone confirm that he’s still in Los Angeles?) and UNC is on the rise. That’s not to say there aren’t any frights left on the schedule. Let’s take a peek at what horrors lie in wait!
October 31, at Virginia
Just like the Gremlins, Virginia can be dangerous in the right conditions. The South’s Oldest Rivalry has been close over the last 128 years, with Carolina leading the series by a slim 63-58-4 margin. Wins usually come in chunks, with recent history seeing Virginia winning four straight from 2006-2009, Carolina then tearing off a 7-game win streak from 2010-2016, and Virginia winning the last three, including last year’s shootout.
In a year of “Coastal Chaos” last year, Carolina actually had a shot at a rematch against Clemson in the ACC Championship game, if they could beat UVa at home. Unfortunately, Bryce Perkins had a performance for the ages, and the Tar Heels, much like Ruby Deagle, were just not ready.
This year, Bryce Perkins is gone (hurray!), Virginia’s defense hemorrhages points against offenses that aren’t as good as UNC’s, and their offense doesn’t seem interested in attacking Carolina’s depleted secondary. As long as Sam Howell and the Gruesome Twosome play smart, turnover-free football, any tricks that UVa’s offense throws at Jay Bateman’s defense should not overcome all the treats that Phil Longo’s offense has to hand-out on Halloween.
November 7, at Duke
Aside from an outlier win against Syracuse in New York, Duke has been an abject failure. The hope that accompanied Clemson-transfer quarterback Chase Brice was a mirage in a vast desert of mediocrity. He consistently fails to hit 60% of his passes in any game (except for hitting that mark against NC State) and his running hasn’t been that much better (except for, again, the NCSU game where he rushed for 86 yards).
How afraid am I of going to Durham and losing the Victory Bell? About as afraid as all of the adults at this awesome Halloween party in Salem while jamming out to Bette Midler’s greatest song ever:
November 14, Wake Forest
Now things start to get interesting.
An expected spanking from the huge paw of Clemson. A head-scratching loss to the flaccid Wolfpack. And then... consistent winning against teams they should beat. It seems like Wake Forest is in a groove now and could be a thorn in Carolina’s side. The Deacs should handle Syracuse without issue setting up an intriguing match-up in Chapel Hill.
I would not mind Wake scoring touchdowns on their opening two drives if UNC’s defense quits hesitating on the delayed draw-handoffs and just puts their helmets right on the running back and quarterback’s arms. Wake Forest makes you doubt who to hit, so be the protagonist! Giving up early touchdowns in exchange for brutal hits on the quarterback is like Lawrence Gordon sawing off his own foot and killing Adam to win the game in Saw.
November 27, Notre Dame
Carolina has the good fortune of having a bye week before their biggest contest of the year. Notre Dame, seen by most as the second best team in the ACC, will be worse for wear after playing Clemson and Boston College, who traditionally play the Irish pretty tough.
Still, with a superb offense led by senior quarterback Ian Book and running back duo Kyren William and Chris Tyree, Notre Dame will stress Carolina’s defense unlike any other team we’ve seen this season. It will probably take an offensive performance of the ages to buoy the team. I would not be surprised to see total scoring eclipse 90 points. Hopefully the team doesn’t eat too much Turkey the day before the game.
If Sam Howell and company are up to the task, hopefully Notre Dame makes like Father Karras in the Exorcist and tumble down some stairs/rankings.
December 5, at Miami
This will either be the final boss, or a bounce-back game similar to the NC State game after losing to Florida State. Miami’s only loss of the season was to Clemson and their only other test before facing UNC in their final game of the regular season will be a trip to Winston-Salem.
Quarterback D’Eriq King is that combination of passer and runner that traditionally curses Carolina defenses. The Hurricane defense has held opponents to a 150 ypg average, and that number is higher than it should be thanks to Clemson’s 258 rushing yards in their win over Miami.
If Carolina does not play with intense focus and at a high level, their hopes of an ACC championship game berth could meet a similar fate to Russell Franklin in Deep Blue Sea:
December 11, Western Carolina
I chose Ernest Scared Stupid because it’s not scary at all.
A late addition to the schedule after the Charlotte game was cancelled due to COVID-19 cases, I fully expect this game to go the same way the Mercer game did last season.
Due to the pandemic, the Southern Conference will begin play in February 2021, but teams have been allowed to schedule out of conference match-ups during the traditional season time period, presumably to make some money. They’ll earn every penny against Carolina. Expect Sam Howell to wrap things up in the first half. Pray for no rain. WCU will pray for no pain.