When you think of states that scream football, your first thought was probably Texas, Florida and California, maybe even Alabama. Little did you know that North Carolina has seven teams participating in DI football this year. That tops the five in Alabama, ties the seven in California and Florida, and is only topped by the 12 teams in the state of Texas. Including transition program UNC Charlotte, North Carolina schools are off to a blazing start at 11-3 on the season. This is particularly impressive when you consider that the loses were when Michigan beat App State, South Carolina beat ECU and when UL Monroe beat Wake Forest. Compare that to the 6-3 record for the state of Alabama, 6-6 record for the state of Florida, 9-5 for the state of California and 14-8 for the state of Texas.
While I will not preview UNC Charlotte, I expect their season filled with FCS and DII programs will most likely lead to an outstanding season in the Win-Loss column.
Appalachian State: This is the toughest projection for the state. When you see a team in their first year in DI, you hope they have a year like Texas San Antonio. I just don’t see the Mountaineers making enough headway to get bowl eligible in their first season of DI football. A successful first year as a FBS program should be six wins, and I think they will flirt with that number.
Duke: Duke has the easiest path to the ACC championship of any team, with their only game against a preseason ranked team being against UNC on Thursday November 20th. With Anthony Boone throwing balls to Jamison Crowder, the Blue Devils should roll through the ACC and have an impressive 10 wins before facing off for the ACC championship. I think Duke should be able to head to Chapel Hill and beat the Tar Heels, once again setting them up for a match-up with Florida State.
East Carolina: There isn’t a person in the country who could claim the Pirates cut corners in their out of conference scheduling. With South Carolina, UNC, Virginia Tech on their out of conference schedule that is a full load. The out of conference games should prepare them to blaze through American Athletic Conference and win a conference title. I see them going into bowl season 8-4
North Carolina State: Call me crazy but I may be jumping onto the Jacoby Brissett bandwagon. The Wolfpack has been historically strong at home against Florida State, and they should easily be 4-0 heading into the match-up with the Seminoles. My lone underdog pick for the state, I have NCSU getting to 7-5 this year and playing in a bowl game again. That is a lofty goal for a Wolfpack team who won three games last season, but I think they can do it on the back of an offense that is becoming more of a group.
University of North Carolina: UNC easily has one of the toughest 3 game stretches in all of college football. They have Clemson, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame three games in a row, with two of those games away. I expect the Tar Heels to carry on with their winning ways they started following the 1-5 start last season. If they hope to play for an ACC championship, they 87th ranked defense is going to need to get their defensive act together. Overall, they should get to nine wins before the ACC Championship game against the winner of the Atlantic division. The game against Duke in November could once again hold a huge part in who wins the ACC coastal.
Wake Forest: Unfortunately, I see Wake Forest as the ugly duckling of the NC schools. Due to their ACC schedule which can be argued as a tough conference, I see a maximum of six wins for the Demon Deacons this season. If freshman QB John Wolford hits his stride, they may be able to break into a bowl game. Likely, they will end the season at 4-8.
Overall, with UNC and Duke carrying the torch, North Carolina is moving a little bit closer to being a state known for their football. Don’t count out ECU, who could run the American Athletic Conference, which is still considered a power 5 conference. I would not be surprised if 5 of the 6 bowl eligible teams end up making it to a bowl game, with at least one being a January game.
Photo Credits to espn.com