North Carolina football is on the rise and looks to put the rest of the ACC on notice in 2020, starting with the Syracuse Orange.
There are high expectations for an ACC title on Chapel Hill but the hype is not surrounding the basketball team. That’s right, the North Carolina Tar Heels football team enters 2020 with plenty of buzz surrounding the program.
Although the Tar Heels only went 7-6 last season, three of their losses (Virginia Tech, Clemson, and Virginia), were all decided by one possession, one of which went to six overtimes, and their loss to the Tigers was by just one point. When you are a program like North Carolina, when you go through a rebuilding phase, you look for everything to show progress, including quality losses.
The Tar Heels are the favorite traditional ACC team to unseat the Clemson Tigers from atop the conference, with free trial Notre Dame being the only team above them that is considered a bigger threat to Clemson. And without Clemson on their regular-season schedule, I would lean more towards the Tar Heels playing the Tigers in the conference title game than I would the Fighting Irish.
North Carolina is led by head coach, Mack Brown, and quarterback, Sam Howell, who as a freshman, threw for 3,600 yards, 36 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions. He also picked up a touchdown on the ground and even caught a touchdown pass of his own. Howell enters 2020 as a dark-horse candidate to win the Heisman.
The Tar Heels open the season with the Syracuse Orange, who followed up a 10-win season in 2018 with a sub .500 record in 2019. The Orange are entering the season with a new offensive coordinator and with a new mindset to get back to the success they had just years ago. The Syracuse offense is led by Tommy DeVito, who is one of the more underrated quarterbacks in college football, but that could be because he spent most of last season on his back, being the most sacked quarterback in the country.
But the biggest concern for Syracuse is their defense, which only returns 5 starters but two of those starters have opted out of the 2020 season due to the ongoing pandemic. But luckily for them, their best player, Andre Cisco, is playing this season and is one of college football’s best safeties, and could be a first-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Orange are going to be in an uphill battle heading into this one, and the Tar Heels know that but hopefully, it is business as usual for North Carolina and they don’t go into this one overly confident or they could find themselves on the wrong side of an upset.
But without further ado, here is everything you need to know about Saturday’s game between North Carolina and Syracuse:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 12
Time: 12:00 p.m. ET
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Venue: Kenan Stadium
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Keys to Victory
For North Carolina, they need to establish their dominance early, and that will start with getting Howell to air it out a few times at the beginning of the game. This will open up not only the passing game but also the run game and allow the offense to move the ball up and down the field.
On defense, North Carolina just needs to get to the quarterback. Sounds pretty basic but the Orange’s offense will literally do nothing if DeVito cannot get anything going.
For Syracuse, they will need their defense to step up and make some big plays and force a few turnovers to give their offense a couple extra possessions to put some points on the board. As for the offense, the Orange cannot afford any turnovers themselves. North Carolina is going to have one of college football’s best offenses this season, so if Syracuse wants to spoil their season in their first game, they will have to do so in a shootout.
Odds courtesy of The Action Network
Point Spread: North Carolina -23
It will be all North Carolina in this one. Sam Howell will not have a sophomore slump this season and will put his name in the running for the Heisman Trophy following his season-opening performance against Syracuse. The Tar Heels defense force three turnovers on their way to a stellar performance and season-opening win.
Final Score: North Carolina 46, Syracuse 17