Coach: Larry Fedora (21-17, entering fourth season; 55-36 overall)
2014 record: 6-7, 4-4 in ACC; tied for third in Coastal Division
Look back: Larry Fedora’s first three years at North Carolina have been plagued by maddening inconsistent play as well as the lingering presence of an academic scandal. The Tar Heels were a dark horse to win the middling Coastal Division after winning six of seven games to end the 2013 season, but that momentum did not carry over to this past year as North Carolina went on a four-game losing streak starting in mid September. The Tar Heels bounced back with wins over eventual division champion Georgia Tech and No. 25 Duke, but ended the regular season with a humiliating 35-7 loss to rival NC State.
Offensive starters returning: 10
Offensive starters lost: 1
Defensive starters returning: 7
Defensive starters lost: 4
Key losses: DB Tim Scott, TE Jack Tabb, LB Travis Hughes, DL Ethan Farmer, LB/DE Norkeithus Otis
Top returnees: QB Marquise Williams, WR Ryan Switzer, OL Landon Turner, OL Caleb Peterson, OL Jon Heck, WR Mack Hollins, WR Quinshad Davis, LB Jeff Schoettmer, DE Nazair Jones, WR Bug Howard, RB T.J. Logan, OL Lucas Crowle
Strengths: North Carolina could potentially field the most explosive offense in the ACC this season. The Tar Heels have a limitless supply of receivers for senior quarterback Marquise Williams to target and an offensive line that returns five starters with a combined 101 career starts between them. The line, led by right guard Landon Turner, has room to improve but should be one of the better units in the conference.
Weaknesses: Simply put, the Tar Heels were abhorrent on defense last season. They ranked last in the conference in yards allowed per game (497.8), yards allowed per play (6.53) and points allowed (39.0), making way for new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik.
Chizik, who led Auburn to a national title as a head coach in 2010, will change the Tar Heels’ defensive scheme to a basic 4-3 formation, although he’ll have to do more than alter alignments after dysfunction crept into UNC’s locker room last year.
Outlook: UNC has been mediocre during Fedora’s tenure but the program could be trending upward. An explosive and experienced offense should carry a defense that would be hard-pressed to do any worse in 2015.
Sept. 3 South Carolina (in Charlotte)
Sept. 12 North Carolina A&T
Sept. 19 Illinois
Sept. 26 Delaware
Oct. 3 at Georgia Tech
Oct. 17 Wake Forest
Oct. 24 Virginia
Oct. 29 at Pittsburgh
Nov. 7 Duke
Nov. 14 Miami
Nov. 21 at Virginia Tech
Nov. 28 at NC State
College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com