Yesterday, USA Today released their annual preseason coaches poll for the 2021 football season. We anticipated that the Tar Heels would find a way to make the list, but the biggest question was where would they land? We now have an answer, and let’s just say that it will be hard not to sweat during each and every football game this season. Well, that’s assuming the Heels ever fall behind on the scoreboard.
Here is how the preseason coaches poll turned out:
4.) Ohio State
6.) Texas A&M
7.) Notre Dame
8.) Iowa State
20.) Penn State
22.) Oklahoma State
24.) Coastal Carolina
25.) Ole Miss
For the first time since 1997, the Tar Heels are ranked in the top 10 of the USA Today coaches poll. They are only one of two ACC teams ranked in the top 10, with Clemson being ranked as the second-best team in the country. Miami is the third and final ACC team in the poll (No. 16), but there are numerous teams that received votes despite not making the cut.
One non-ACC ranking worth pointing out is for Notre Dame, who the coaches ranked as the seventh-best team in the country. This is notable for a couple of reasons: the first being that Notre Dame has returned to their independent status for football, so from an ACC standpoint a win or a loss to them on October 30th doesn’t move the Coastal division needle like it did last season. However, this game is still extremely important for the Heels, as it is by far the biggest game on the schedule and could play a significant role in their chances to potentially make the College Football Playoffs. Ultimately it’s not very likely that their chances live or die with that game, as they could probably still win the Coastal and beat Clemson in the ACC championship game to get in, but it would certainly leave little to no doubt if they succeeded in taking down the Fighting Irish.
It goes without saying, however, that Mack Brown and his team have quite the road ahead of them before we can even think about Notre Dame, let alone Clemson. This is still the team that lost to Florida State and Virginia last season, and so we will need to see if Mack Brown’s squad is finally tough enough to avoid losing games that they shouldn’t be losing. The good news is that things should be different this season from a defensive standpoint. UNC defensive coordinator Jay Bateman finally has the depth that he needs to really let his scheme shine, but the biggest question is whether or not the most important pieces can stay healthy. Jeremy Gemmel, Storm Duck, Tony Grimes, Tomon Fox, and Eugene Asante are just a few names of some players that are expected to have a huge impact this season. Should all of them stay healthy and play to their potential, I think that not only are the winnable games that much easier, but the games against Miami, Notre Dame, and Pitt do not look nearly as tough as they would’ve last season.
It has become more and more difficult not to get anxious for the college football season to start, and the coaches poll has given Tar Heel fans even more reason to find parts for a time machine so that we can get this show on the road. Carolina football has finally found their way back into the bright lights of the national stage, and I can’t wait to see if this team is ready to embrace it and shock the country by taking over the ACC, and hopefully more.
August, enough is enough. Let September in already.