2011 record: 7-6 overall, 3-5 in ACC (4th-tie in Coastal)
2011 postseason: Independence Bowl (41-24 loss to Missouri)
2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked
Head coach: Larry Fedora (34-19 overall, first season at North Carolina)
Offensive coordinator: Blake Anderson (first season at UNC, first as OC)
2011 offensive rankings: 76th rushing offense (138.8 ypg); 36th passing offense (254.4 ypg); 53rd total offense (393.2 ypg); 56th scoring offense (28 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: eight
Defensive coordinator: Dan Disch (first season at UNC, first as DC)
2011 defensive rankings: 27th rushing defense (123.9 ypg); 78th passing defense (241.3 ypg); 49th total defense (365.2 ypg); 56th scoring defense (24.8 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: five
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
Stadium: Kenan Memorial Stadium (62,980; grass)
Last league title: 1980
2011 statistics: [view]
You ever have a gut feeling about something for no readily apparent reason? Welcome to UNC at No. 18, y’all!!! Actually, there are two valid reasons for their stunning — “Stupid’s more like it,” John Taylor’s inner voice said in off-the-record comments — inclusion in the Top 25, let alone the Top 20. One, my supreme confidence in Larry Fedora as a head coach possessing the ability to right the listing Tar Heels football ship immediately. And, two, the presence of quarterback Bryn Renner. Aside from that? It’s hard to explain the inexplicable.
The schedule, for one, which features road trips to Wake Forest, Louisville, Miami and Virginia, and home dates with Virginia Tech, North Carolina State and Georgia Tech. It’s not exactly an SEC murderer’s row, but it will serve as a stiff challenge in Fedora’s first season. Then there’s this: 53rd/49th in total offense/defense, 56th in scoring offense and scoring defense in 2011. And there’s the fact that UNC has almost nothing to play for thanks to a postseason ban courtesy of the NCAA. Remind me again why we’re here with the Tar Heels? Oh yeah, the whole gut thing. On a completely unrelated note, I obviously need to hit the gym way more than I normally do.
You could place at least a couple of things under this heading. How the Tar Heels respond to the 180-mph Fedora. How they respond to no shot at a postseason berth. The unknowns are so numerous, in fact, that anyone including them in a preseason in a Top 25 is delusional at best or … dammit. Never mind.
Make-or-break game: vs. Virginia Tech, Oct. 6
In the midst serving out their NCAA sanctions, the role of spoiler is the best to which the Tar Heels can hope to climb in 2012. As the Hokies are the consensus pick to run away with the Coastal Division, the game in Chapel Hill will serve as UNC’s best opportunity to play the spoiler.
Heisman hopeful: quarterback Bryn Renner
In his first year as UNC’s starter, Renner led the ACC in passing efficiency. With Fedora onboard, nothing less than progress that may eventually, at some point in the season, be measured in leaps and bounds for the junior should be expected. Last season, Renner completed over 68 percent of his passes for nearly 3,100 yards and 26 touchdowns, numbers that could/should improve in the new offense.