Belk Bowl - Cincinnati v North Carolina

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 23 North Carolina


2013 record: 7-6 overall, 4-4 in ACC (5th in Coastal Division)
2013 postseason: Belk Bowl vs. Cincinnati (39-17 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: unranked/unranked
Head coach: Larry Fedora (49-29 overall; 15-10 in 2 years at UNC)
Co-Offensive coordinators: Gunter Brewer (3rd season at UNC); Chris Kapilovic (3rd season at UNC)
2013 offensive rankings: 85th rushing offense (148.31 ypg); 28th passing offense (277.4ypg); 49th total offense (425.7 ypg); 43rd scoring offense (32.7 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 9
Defensive coordinator: Dan Disch (3rd season at UNC)
2013 defensive rankings: 83rd rushing defense (182.38 ypg); 50th passing defense (220.7 ypg); 64th total defense (403.1 ypg); 43rd scoring defense (24.5 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 7
Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Stadium: Kenan Memorial Stadium (63,000; natural grass)
Last conference title: 1980

If you believe in ending one year on a high note having any impact on the following season, then consider UNC the team to beat in the ACC Coastal Division. The Tar Heels ended the 2013 season by winning five of their final six regular season games to become eligible for postseason play and then ran away from Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl. Few teams ended the year on a hotter streak than the Tar Heels, so the pressure will be on to not have to dig out of a hole in the early going this season. Fortunately, despite losing some key players on offense like tight end Eric Ebron, Fedora’s offense should be ready to get off to a quick start this season. Now in year three under Fedora, the offense and defense both seem to be progressing and are expected to continue that development this fall. The defense returns seven starters, which should help that cause early on.

North Carolina tends to play some undisciplined football, and that can come back to haunt a team at any given time. The Tar Heels were called for a penalty more than any other team in the ACC (96 penalties), besides Syracuse (99 penalties). No other school in the ACC had more than 81 penalties last season. Those penalties add up as well. The average penalty yardage per game against UNC was 63.9 ypg, the most in the ACC (831 yards in total). That is more yards than two teams rushed for all of last season (Purdue and Washington State). UNC has to kick this habit. The Tar Heels have been ranked 9th or lower in the ACC in penalty yardage each season since 2009.

North Carolina can be a pretty good team if everything is working in sync right from the start. That has been a problem for Fedora’s Tar Heels since he arrived in Chapel Hill. North Carolina can be a streaky team it seems, but in a division that could be wide open for the taking, a slow start or a lull somewhere in the middle of the year is not going to have a good result. When UNC is firing on all of Fedora’s Red Bull-fueled cylinders, they can be the class of the ACC Coastal. The schedule throws some challenges with road games at Clemson, Miami and Duke, but if UNC is at the top of its game then all three are games capable of being won. Does this team have the mentality to take charge as the top team in the Coastal? That remains to be seen.

There are a few games worth noting for North Carolina this season (at Clemson on September 27 and home against Virginia Tech on October 4 perhaps being equally as worthy), but the road game at Miami could be the game that swings the entire race in the ACC Coastal in favor of the Tar Heels. In what could easily be a wide-open division race with as many as four or five teams in the hunt into November, division games will be critical. Heading into a bye week with a win and some momentum could be huge for UNC as they finish up at home against Pittsburgh and NC State with a road game at Duke in-between.

HEISMAN HOPEFUL: QB Marquise Williams
There has been much to say about a quarterback competition in Chapel Hill heading into the 2014 season, but Williams may be the best option to go with after the way he helped spark the second half success last fall. Last fall Williams completed 58.1 percent of his passes for 1,698 yards and 15 touchdowns, with six interceptions. He also ended the season as UNC’s leading rusher with 536 yards and a team-high six touchdowns. He gives opposing defenses something to think about when he is on the field, and he may give Fedora more wrinkles in the playbook.

(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)

Wisconsin LB Vince Biegel back from injury a lot sooner than expected

MADISON, WI - SEPTEMBER 17:  Vince Biegel #47 of the Wisconsin Badgers celebrates after making a tackle in the second quarter against the Georgia State Panthers at Camp Randall Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
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That was significantly quicker than anyone really expected.

Very late last month, Wisconsin confirmed that starting linebacker Vince Biegel would be sidelined “for several weeks” because of an injured foot that required surgery to insert a screw.  It was thought at the time that, at minimum, Biegel would miss games against Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa and Nebraska.

After missing the first two and with a bye week thrown in as well, the senior is set to return for the Badgers this weekend against the Hawkeyes on the road.

Prior to the foot injury, Biegel had started 29 games in a row for the Badgers.

‘Canes down three defensive starters for Thursday night game vs. Hokies

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - OCTOBER 17: Brenden Motley #9 of the Virginia Tech Hokies escapes a tackle from Chad Thomas #9 of the Miami Hurricanes during a game  at Sun Life Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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When Miami takes the field Thursday night against Virginia Tech, the Hurricanes will do so with a significantly depleted defense.

On The U’s official injury report, starting defensive end Chad Thomas is listed as questionable with an upper extremity injury.  However, both Susan Miller Degnan of the Miami Herald and Matt Porter of the Palm Beach Post are reporting that Thomas did not travel to Blacksburg with the team and will not play in the prime-time game against the Hokies.

Thomas suffered the injury in last Saturday’s loss to North Carolina.

Additionally, fellow starting end Demetrius Jackson and starting cornerback Sheldrick Redwine have been ruled out as well.  Jackson is nursing an injured knee, while Redwine was not listed on The U’s injury report and the reason for his absence — he didn’t make the trip, either — is unknown.

Thomas, who has started all six games this season, currently leads the ‘Canes in tackles for loss with eight, while Jackson is tied for second with 5.5.  Jackson has started five of the six games.

Redwine has started the last five games for the Hurricanes, the first starts of his collegiate career.

Two UConn football players arrested on weed, ‘weapons’ charges

PROVO, UT - OCTOBER 2: Head coach Bob Diaco of the Connecticut Huskies talks to his team on the bench during their game against the Brigham Young Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium on October 2, 2015 in Provo Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images)
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Two UConn football players were arrested Wednesday evening following a traffic stop, multiple media outlets are reporting.

According to the Daily Campus, the school’s student newspaper, linebacker Nazir Williams and defensive lineman Felton Blackwell were both charged with one count each of weapons in a motor vehicle.  The weapon, it turned out, was an unmarked, loaded BB gun “that initially appeared to be a real gun,” the paper wrote.

Williams, the driver of the vehicle, was also charged with possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana and possession of alcohol by a minor.

The traffic stop that led to the arrests was triggered by Williams’ vehicle having a headlight out.  The incident report detailed that, in a search of the vehicle, four grams of marijuana, an open container of vodka and the BB gun were found.

Neither Williams nor Blackwell are listed on the two-deep depth chart released ahead of Saturday’s game against UCF.  Both players took redshirts as true freshmen last season.

Florida’s banged-up front seven trying to get healthy ahead of Georgia

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 5: Quarterback Jake Coker #14 of the Alabama Crimson Tide scrambles under pressure from linebacker Jarrad Davis #40 of the Florida Gators in the first quarter during the SEC Championship at the Georgia Dome on December 5, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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Tennessee’s not the only SEC East team dealing with an inordinate number of injuries.

As Florida continues prepping for its annual cocktail party with Georgia in Week 9, the Gainesville Sun notes that the Gators’ “defensive front seven could be missing as many as four starters.” Even as the rivalry game is still a little over a week away — UF’s on a bye this weekend — it appears somewhat unlikely that Jarrad Davis will be available.

The starting middle linebacker sustained a severely sprained ankle in the Week 7 win over Missouri, and is thought to be a longshot to play. Jim McElwain, however, hasn’t shut the door.

“Jarrad Davis obviously hurt that ankle real good,” the head coach said. “But, if there is a guy I would bet, or know, that he’s going to do everything he can to get back. Obviously, he’s not practicing this week, but he’s been doing a great job rehab-wise. We’ll see where that is.

“I don’t know (if there’s a chance he could play next week). That’s him. That’s the medical staff. It’s making sure it’s right. If they’re mentally right to go, he’ll go.”

Three other front seven starters’ statuses are up in the air thanks to injuries. From the Sun:

The status of three other starters on the defensive front — ends Bryan Cox Jr. (thumb) and Jordan Sherit (knee) and tackle Joey Ivie (thumb) — also is uncertain for Georgia.

Sherit had his knee scoped two weeks ago. Ivie’s thumb remains in a cast after undergoing surgery three weeks ago. Cox injured his thumb during warmups for the Missouri game when his hand got caught in the jersey of a teammate during a drill.

Cox, per McElwain, could be lost for the season. The paper did note that “[t]news appears a little more positive on Sherit and Ivie.” Those two have practiced on a limited basis and their statuses will be reevaluated next week.

Davis currently leads the Gators in tackles with 48 and is tied for second on the team with 3.5 tackles for loss. Sherit is one of the players with which Davis is tied in tackles for loss.