The 2021 season was supposed to be the big year for North Carolina football under Mack Brown. Quarterback Sam Howell was coming back with a number of receivers and a few cornerstone performers on defense. North Carolina was viewed as a main contender for the ACC football championship, and when Clemson stumbled in the ACC, losing two conference games, it seemed that UNC had a real opportunity.
However, the Tar Heels could not find any consistency whatsoever. They played a few games in which their offense did not show up. They played a few games in which their defense did not show up. They played a few games in which both sides of the ball were unable to make defining clutch plays. UNC rarely was able to get its offense and its defense to play well in the same game at the same time.
As a result, the Tar Heels stumbled to a 6-6 regular season and then lost their bowl game decisively to South Carolina. It was a humiliating, exasperating journey for a team which was supposed to be the class of the ACC.
Now, one year after that massive failure, the Tar Heels will try to respond by overachieving when no one expects them to do particularly well. Maybe playing with no pressure is what this team needs in order to realize its potential.
How The Team Changed This Offseason
Ty Chandler, Marcus McKethan, and Josh Ezeudu joined Sam Howell as players who were picked in the NFL draft. This reinforces the extent to which 2021 was a missed opportunity; the Tar Heels and their fans knew that NFL-caliber talent existed on the roster. Maybe this year’s team can forge the continuity last year’s team lacked. The 2021 Tar Heels simply didn’t mesh well on the field. This year’s group has to find a way to make that happen.
North Carolina Will Be Successful If…
The new recruits can instantly produce. Mack Brown recruited two five-star athletes for the 2022 season. Offensive tackle Zach Rice and defensive lineman Travis Shaw will give UNC some of its highest-ranked recruits in recent years. The fact that they are both linemen gives the Tar Heels more of a chance to impose their will on opponents in the trenches. This team needs to be more physical, and these two recruitments gave the program exactly what it needed heading into a very uncertain season.
North Carolina Will Disappoint If…
The receivers can’t significantly improve. With the Tar Heels replacing quarterback Sam Howell this season, a key priority for the program is to develop a good relationship between the quarterbacks and receivers on the 2022 roster. The passing game underperformed last year. This year, no one expects it to be good. If the receivers can make a big leap forward, however, UNC won’t lose ground on offense and could be in position to exceed this year’s expectations.
The One Best North Carolina Tar Heels Bet Is…
Odds to win conference championship: +2000
Taking a look at the NCAAF odds, it’s a tempting price in the sportsbook, but if North Carolina couldn’t win the ACC last year, when it had a much more loaded roster, it is simply not going to happen this year. Don’t take the flier on UNC.
Pick: Against North Carolina To Win ACC