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College Football Week 8: Teams Tar Heels should root for this weekend

No need to figure out who to root for when UNC isn’t on (or even when they are); we’ve got you covered.

UNC football fans cheering Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

You are not a freak. No, you are a well-adjusted Tar Heel fan, with a nice family and interesting hobbies and lots of other great things going for you, I’m sure. You know you should watch and root for UNC when the Heels are on, but you don’t have the time, energy, nor depravity to figure out all the other college football teams you should root for any given week.

Luckily for you, I am a freak and a Tar Heel fan, so I’ve gone ahead and figured it out on your behalf. Each week, I will go through the list of TV timeslots and call out individual teams Tar Heels should root for, whether that be for rivalry reasons, strength-of-schedule implications, or playoff/NY6 positioning. I’ll even list the TV information for your convenience, as well as the point spread so you know how likely a win is (and how hard to root).

Of course, we saw the power of rooting up close on Saturday when the Tar Heels smoked Miami (FOR THE FIFTH YEAR IN A ROW!) in front of one of the greatest Carolina football crowds of all time. Everyone in Kenan Stadium did their job to the fullest extent, save for the offensively-built Canes fan/slob they kept showing on TV. Big “U Down” right on your forehead, buddy.

Anyway, whether you’ll be back in Kenan at 6:30 this Saturday to watch Carolina whoop on UVA or next to me (figuratively*) on the couch, it’s time for us all to do our jobs once again.

*Could be literally, if you’re cool.

Teams Tar Heels should root for are in bold.

Thursday Night

James Madison (-3.5) at Marshall (7:00 PM ET on ESPN)

There are three drivers behind this rooting recommendation:

  1. JMU beat UVA and, seeing as we play the latter this Saturday, we would like their resume (can I call it that?) to look as sorta-not-trash as possible.
  2. NC State is sorta-not-trash at best, and it would be pleasantly reinforcing to see one of the few teams they beat lose again.
  3. Ridiculously stupid NCAA rules (have we heard that before?) prevent* James Madison from playing in the Sun Belt Championship or a bowl game, as teams promoted from FCS to FBS are not postseason-eligible for the first two years of their transition. Every JMU win brings additional attention to the NCAA being stupid. As we Heels fans all understand, it’s always good to root against the morons at the NCAA.

*Some folks may have found a loophole for JMU:

Jacksonville Jaguars at New Orleans Saints (-1) (8:15 PM ET on Prime Video)

The Jaguars roster zero Tar Heels, while James Hurst continues to get paid by the Saints. I understand many of you are Panthers fans. Separate your professional sadness from your college rooting interests.

Friday Night

Support your local high school teams. By the way, Weddington blew the doors off Sun Valley in that game I mentioned last week. Condolences to the Fighting Sam Howells.

As for the college ranks:

SMU (-20.5) at Temple (7:00 PM ET on ESPN2)

A-C-C! A-C-C! A-C-C!

Saturday (Early)

UCF (+19) at Oklahoma (Noon ET on ABC)

I think it’s fair to say after dogging Miami that the Heels are openly playoff jockeying. There’s a sneaky-unfortunate scenario in which Oklahoma goes undefeated in the regular season, Texas avenges their Red River loss in a close Big 12 title game, and both teams get in, thus taking a spot that could be UNC’s. That would be a real kick in the soft parts for both UNC fans and the stationary portion of the Big 12. So we must root against it.

Boston College at Georgia Tech (-4.5) (Noon ET on ACC Network)

The Yellow Jackets beat our best win a couple weeks ago and will become one of our wins in a week. We need them to separate themselves from the true dregs of the ACC.

Akron at Bowling Green (-7.5) (2:00 PM ET on ESPN+)

In service of Georgia Tech’s ascension up a step-ladder, we NEED Bowling Green to get over .500. A home win over 1-6 Akron would bring the Falcons to a smooth 4-4.

Saturday (Midday)

Washington State (+20) at Oregon (3:30 PM ET on ABC)

The Ducks lost to Washington on Saturday but remain ahead of UNC in the AP Poll. More on the illegitimacy of the PAC-12 later but, for now, just know that we gotta get Oregon up outta there. A back-to-back sweep by the Washington schools sure would help.

Tennessee (+9) at Alabama (3:30 PM ET on CBS)

It’s the Third Saturday in October, folks, which means the Vols and the Tide are going at it (and the horns sound even sweeter). Alabama is right on the Heels’ heels in the latest polls and are running out of conceivably losable games. I sure don’t want to be standing next to Bama when the Resume Man comes calling, so I and all sensible UNC fans will be rooting for Tennessee this weekend. They still have to play Georgia (and Missouri), after all.

P.S. Expect a very different game than last year’s uprights-injuring shootout. Both defenses should have good days.

South Carolina (+7) at Missouri (3:30 PM ET on SEC Network)

Speaking of Mizzou — this time non-parenthetically — they represent a quasi-winnable game in the minefield that is South Carolina’s schedule. My memories from week 1 in Charlotte will always be sweet, but they’ll be even sweeter if the Cocks can make a bowl game.

Minnesota (+3.5) at Iowa (3:30 PM ET on NBC)

If you have small children or pets, keep them far away from this game. The offensive sludge that will be on the field at Kinnick will be nothing short of toxic. Still, a Gophers win is always going to help the Heels this season.

On another note, an Iowa loss would eliminate Penn State’s only ranked win, which isn’t even all that impressive. Although it’s sure to be moot one way or another after the Nittany Lions face Ohio State on Saturday, I enjoyed Bud Elliott of the Cover 3 podcast’s advocacy that UNC rank above Penn State on the merits:

Pitt (+1) at Wake Forest (3:30 PM ET on ACC Network)

Let’s get on a roll here, Pitt!

Texas at Houston (+23.5) (4:00 PM ET on Fox)

A sure-fire way to eliminate that Big 12 doomsday scenario we outlined earlier.

Saturday (Primetime)

The Tar Heels play UVA at 6:30 PM ET (primetime-ish) on the CW Network (not prime-ish at all). The Heels should (knock on wood) put this one away early, so there’s ample channel flipping to prepare for.

Appalachian State (-6.5) at Old Dominion (7:00 PM ET on NFL Network)

Odd network placement aside, we could really use an App State rally through the second-half of the season. The Tar Heels’ only “blemish” thus far has been the double OT sweat-fest against a .500 Sun Belt team. The ‘Neers ripping off a hot streak to end the season would alleviate much of the scarring from that game; we ought to root for that streak to start now.

Michigan at Michigan State (+24) (7:30 PM ET on NBC)

As we’ve detailed time and time again in this space: big upsets in non-ACC leagues will help the Heels down the line when it’s playoff time. Michigan may have beaten Rutgers, but they can suffer a transitive loss to them here, as well. Just thought that’d be funny to point out.

Duke at Florida State (-14.5) (7:30 PM ET on ABC)

I shouldn’t have to give you a reason to root against Dook, but I will anyway: the Heels won’t make the playoffs based on beating Dook, but they could based on beating an undefeated FSU. UNC loses a key potential resume item if the Noles lose before the showdown in Charlotte.

Saturday (After Dark)

Arizona State (+26.5) at Washington (10:30 PM ET on FS1)

We are desperate for the PAC-12 to be (accurately) delegitimized, given Oregon is still in front of UNC in the latest AP Poll after the Ducks lost to Washington. What better way to damage that reputation than have the Huskies turn around and lose to the objectively awful Arizona State?

Carolina fans should all be rooting for this upset in an effort to hop both west coast contenders in the national pecking order. Personally, I will be rooting for this because the national opinion of the PAC-12’s quality has gotten way out of hand. The entire conference’s reputation is based on Utah’s home win over Florida and the rest abusing each other’s terrible defenses. They should not be getting credit for SEC-style Quality Losses™.

UCLA at Stanford (+17) (10:30 PM ET on ESPN)

A-C-C! A-C-C! A-C-C!

I hope I’ve given you Tar Heels a helpful guide as you align your rooting energies ahead of this weekend. Are there any other teams you’re pulling for? Drop them in the comments below.

Remember, if we all root really hard, we can affect the games.