The Tar Heels are preparing to square off against App State this Saturday afternoon at Kenan Stadium. The Heels are coming off of an impressive victory against arguably one of the better quarterbacks in the country, and the Mountaineers took down Gardner-Webb in their opener. I’m sure both teams would like to have much better defensive performances than they did in last season’s game, but the question is will they? In UNC’s case, there’s optimism that they will be able to take on the challenge after they held South Carolina to just three points in the second half of last weekend’s game. Let’s just hope that optimism finds a way to become reality.
This will be another intense game for the Tar Heels with another team that would love nothing more than to give them a loss and also earn bragging rights. Let’s take a look at how the Heels can come out of this one with a win.
We should see a better Drake Maye in Chapel Hill
Let me be clear: Drake Maye still had a good game against the Gamecocks last Saturday. The problem, however, is that he had a couple of uncharacteristic interceptions, and at times it felt like the offense wasn’t quite clicking on all cylinders. It can’t be overstated how impressive it is that they still found a way to put 31 points on the board. It truly felt like first game rust/jitters for the entire offense, and for Maye in particular, I think he will have a much better game in Chapel Hill this Saturday.
There are of course two players on the team that could help Maye out a lot this weekend, but we still don’t know the status of either guy. Tez Walker is still dealing with the NCAA so his fate is unclear, while Nate McCollum is day-to-day with a groin injury. We should find out more about Walker’s situation today, but even if Maye had only McCollum back Saturday, I think that’d be a huge boost to the Carolina offense. Even if neither of them played, I think it’s safe to say that Maye is too good to not have a better game against the Mountaineers, right?
Can the defense prevent last year’s shootout from repeating?
I mentioned earlier that Carolina’s defense in 2022 led to one of the most ridiculous shootouts I’ve personally witnessed as a fan. The 63-61 score looked more like a high-scoring Virginia Cavaliers basketball game than it did a football game, and one can only hope that we never have to watch another defense-optional game this weekend. The good news is UNC’s front seven was so good against South Carolina that I can’t see another game like last year’s happening again.
One issue the Heels had last season was dealing with the Mountaineers’ run game, which was led by Nate Noel. As a team, App State ran for 288 yards, which somehow managed to dwarf UNC’s 215. As long as Kaimon Rucker is on the field, I feel like things are going to play out differently this year, but truly the other six guys are also going to give the Mountaineers fits. Getting to the quarterback as often as they did against the Gamecocks would be a wonderful bonus.
Will Tez Walker actually get cleared to play?
Going back to the Tez Walker situation, his appeals hearing with the NCAA is scheduled to take place today. At this point things are pretty cut and dry: if the NCAA flips their decision, we should see Walker play this Saturday. If they once again deny his request for eligibility, then we will likely see legal action follow according to comments Mack Brown has made.
Words cannot possibly describe how stupid this entire situation has been for Walker. Mental health issues aside — which are a big deal and only adds to how evil the NCAA is being about all of this — it makes no sense how they can apply a rule to someone who transferred schools before the rule was even created. Imagine buying a house at a 3% fixed interest rate, and a week later you receive a call saying that the new interest rate is 7% because of a recent increase. The NCAA is starting to make less and less sense as a governing body, and their latest stunt makes it seem like they actually want everybody to hate them and run them out of town.
Please NCAA, just give Walker his eligibility back. Stop embarrassing yourselves and making more enemies than you already had.