Last week, the Tar Heels entered unfamiliar territory when they were ranked 9th in the country in the USA Today coaches poll. We are less than a week from that announcement, and we now know what we’ve long suspected: the Tar Heels are officially a top-10 team.
Today the Associated Press released their preseason rankings, and the Tar Heels are ranked firmly at No. 10. This is the first time that the team has been ranked in the top 10 since Mack Brown’s first stint as a Carolina coach back in 1997, when they were ranked No. 7 in the preseason rankings. The Heels will now enter the regular season ranked in the top ten in the major polls, will have a Heisman candidate at quarterback, and are heavy favorites to win the Coastal division to more than likely take on Clemson in the ACC championship game. It’s a lot of uncharted territory for the Tar Heels in the 21st century, but this may finally be the year that they can return to the national spotlight and find success in the process.
As far as the rest of the ACC goes, Clemson is the only other team in the top 10, and they are ranked No. 3 behind Alabama and Oklahoma. Miami finishes off the list of ACC teams, coming in at No. 14 right behind Florida. NC State also received nods from AP voters, but they will need some wins and some luck before they will have a chance to show up in the polls later in the season.
As far as what Mack Brown’s thoughts are about the ranking, here’s what he had to say, courtesy of Inside Carolina:
“We’re a preseason top-10 team with a whole lot of work to do,” Brown said on Thursday. “And that’s the other message to the players. Don’t sit around and start thinking about yourself. We’re going to a hostile place that’s a very well-coached football team in Virginia Tech that doesn’t like us very much and has a circle around our head, so get better, get better. Quit talking about how good you are and continue to get better.”
Truly how good voters think a team is doesn’t reflect the product that ends up on the field in Blacksburg next month. The Heels will have to not only resist the urge to fall back into old, infuriating habits (losing the very first game of the season), but they will have to do it at one of the most hostile places to play in the ACC. It also doesn’t help that Virginia Tech has had a long-standing aversion to Carolina blue, but things will only be amplified this season as the Heels have been crowned Coastal division darlings in the eyes of national media. We’re used to this kind of thing in basketball, but it will be a whole other experience seeing teams swing for the fences when UNC is on the other side of the field.
Regardless, this is an exciting time for Carolina fans, but it’s an even more exciting time for those who have been extremely loyal to the football program through all of the ups and downs. Mack Brown has certainly done the Lord’s work with this team, and hopefully we get to watch a team this season that is ready to dethrone Clemson at the top of the ACC. What do you think of UNC’s preseason ranking? Let us know in the comments below.