It’s gameday! And while we’ve got gameday content for you elsewhere, this article is more about the start of the season that this gameday represents. It’s time for our annual Tar Heel Blog season predictions, where we reveal our inner thoughts about the upcoming UNC team free of the expectations of journalistic hedging! We’ll come back with the weekly ACC game predictions next week, but for now, let’s look at the long run with a few basic questions:
The thing that sticks out most here is that all of us are seeing a double-digit win season — I don’t think we’ve collectively been this optimistic about UNC football since I started writing here 5 years ago (geez, it’s been a while). There’s also total consensus that Sam Howell will be the offensive MVP (shocker), and some consensus that the defensive MVP will be linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel, though Al is going with Storm Duck in his comeback to action and I’m going with Des Evans, who’s been drawing raves in camp as a big pass rusher. I added a non-QB Offensive MVP section in anticipation of exactly this happening, and unsurprisingly everybody either picked the starting running back, Ty Chandler, or the buzziest receiver, Josh Downs. Duck gets a little love for Biggest Surprise, as does receiver Emery Simmons, who’s now going to have a bigger role with Beau Corrales announcing he’s had to get another surgery post-setbacks from his hernia recovery last year. Conley and Asante are first-year starters who flashed last year, Hood is a true freshman who’s already made the two-deep at running back, and Walston is a super-senior who might be pressed into featuring more heavily in the offense without experienced NFL talent flanking him on the boundaries. Virginia is a popular pick for worst loss, as some of our writers haven’t forgotten last year’s debacle and the Virginia offense, particularly in the trenches, is actually pretty strong. The game I haven’t forgotten is Wake Forest, which was made much harder than it should’ve been and only saved by possibly the best single-game performance by a quarterback Chapel Hill has ever seen. Notre Dame and Miami wouldn’t be bad losses, probably, but when you’re only predicting one or two losses, that’s the way it goes, I guess.
On to some rapid-fire questions:
Everybody boo Matt for not picking UNC to win the Coastal! Booooooo (Though he might be saving us from the jinx). Where we are in consensus is that the Heels will win all three in-state games they play this season — the rivalry game against N.C. State, the division game against Duke, and the non-conference game against Wake Forest (yes, that’s still a thing!). There’s dissent about whether or not UNC will live up to its preseason top-10 billing, which seems like it’s going to be about timing more than anything else — if UNC is going to lose a dumb game, will it be early enough to build up goodwill to get back into the rankings? You can read our “bold” predictions at your own pace, but I want to shout-out Tanya for speaking the #HowellHeisman into existence, and blast Brandon a little for calling 7 turnovers “bold.” Tanya also gets props for being the sole writer to predict that UNC takes the conference — we love an optimistic site manager!
Bring this season on — and may the Heels outdo all of our expectations!