Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels enter the 2015 campaign with high hopes, even though their overall record has regressed in every season since Fedora took over. In his tenure, the Tar Heels have a winning record (13-11) in conference play, but has yet to be considered a contender for the ACC title. Defense was a huge problem last year for the Tar Heels, allowing 6.5 yards per play and giving up 39 points per game. Former Auburn Coach Gene Chizik has been brought on to help correct those issues, and considering his success with his previous employer, it’s safe to say the defense has already been upgraded just by his presence.

The offense averaged 33.2 points per game last season and remains mostly intact. Quarterback Marquise Williams is a duel-threat option that has the goods to earn All-ACC accolades. The Tar Heels need him to stay healthy however, considering there is not much behind Williams on the depth chart. Fedora and offensive coordinator Seth Littrell would be wise to design a playbook that’s geared towards limiting the amount of hits Williams takes throughout this season.

Last Season
ACC (Coastal)
Record
ATS Record
Over/Under
Points For
Points Against
3rd
6-7
5-8
5-7
33.2
39.0
2015 Schedule
Date Opponent Spread (Est.) Win Chance
9/3 South Carolina +7 0.30
9/12 North Carolina A&T -21 1
9/19 Illinois -7 0.70
9/26 Delaware -28 1
10/3 @ Georgia Tech +8 0.26
10/17 Wake Forest -14 0.85
10/24 Virginia -7 0.43
10/29 @ Pitt +6 0.34
11/7 Duke +4 0.38
11/14 Miami (FL) +4 0.38
11/21 @ Virginia Tech +10 0.23
11/28 @ NC State +6 0.34
Estimated Wins: 6.21

The spotlight will be on as ESPN kicks off their national programming schedule with UNC vs South Carolina. Playing the game at Bank of America Stadium, home of the Carolina Panthers, both teams will be battling it out for bragging rights. The Tar Heels step down in class but stay in the Carolinas for week 2 at home against NC A&T. Two more non-conference home games are slated against Illinois and Delaware, both teams the Tar Heels are not too familiar with. It’s conference play the rest of the way as North Carolina travels to Georgia Tech in week 5. The Tar Heels earned the gritty victory 48-43 against the Yellow Jackets last season. UNC get’s a bye week before two home games against Wake Forest and UVA. A trip to Pitt is on deck, the Tar Heels grabbed the 40-35 victory against the Panthers last year. Two more home games include Duke and Virginia Tech, a favorable advantage in scheduling for the Tar Heels considering the projected value of both opponents. Week 11 and week 12 are both on the road as North Carolina closes out the season against Virginia Tech and NC State, two teams that beat the Tar Heels at Kenan Stadium in 2014.

I love the South Carolina game to open the season, it’s a win-win situation for both teams and ESPN was smart enough to showcase it. Should UNC pull off the victory, it’s likely they run the table in their non-conference schedule. A flat spot could be justified after a week 1 victory, but I don’t see it being enough to lose to a team like NC A&T. The bye week could have come at a better time, considering it’s before the Wake Forest game and the Demon Deacons aren’t expected to do anything this season. Pitt, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech and NC State on the road all look like losses to me but, as I mentioned above, getting Duke and Miami at home could be crucial to a winning season.

Roster Breakdown

I want to break one thing down before I continue, and that’s the percentage of yards gained by who’s coming back for North Carolina this year. The Tar Heels return 83.7% of their receiving yards, 99.2% of their passing yards and a full 100% of their rushing yards. I’d also like to mention every offensive linemen is a returning starter, giving them a genuine formula for success.

The offense is ran by QB Marquise Williams, who owns the school record for total offense in a single season (set last year).  Keeping Williams in the pocket more could help limit the risk of injur, but could also limit the overall potential of the offense.

North Carolina will have a trio of running backs at their disposal with T.J. Logan, Romar Morris and Elijah Hood. Each offer their own specific skill sets that compliment each other.

UNC went for a certain look in regards to their receivers. Quinshad Davis, Bug Howard and Mack Hollins are all 6’4″ or taller. Ryan Switzer is the odd man out, standing at 5’10”, but he is an all-around talent with the speed to break away at any moment.

The offensive line is lead by senior right guard Landon Turner, an exceptional talent in his natural position. Lining up next to Turner is third-year starter Jon Heck at the tackle position. Bentley Spain, a sophomore left tackle has established himself through spring camp and could be relied upon for years to come.

The first thing Gene Chizik is going to do is switch the defensive scheme from a 4-2-5 to a more traditional 4-3. This will have an immediate impact for the better simply because it’s an easier system to execute. Any change should be positive considering the Tar Heels finished dead last in every major defensive stat line and set conference records for yards and points allowed in a single season.

The defensive line comes in young and untested. The sophomores are Dajuan Drennon and Nazar Jones and the freshmen are Jalen Dalton and Jeremiah Clarke. Although these young talents have some upside, this is a position the team is not deep in at all. Senior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer will roam the middle and lead the Tar Heels defense after finishing second on the team in tackles last year.

The secondary is mostly intact, and will revolve around standout cornerback Brian Walker. The DBs were horrible as a unit last year, however, giving up 31 touchdown passes. Was the horrible performance last year a system issue or was it simply a personal problem?  Time will tell.

Odds
Regular Season Win Total
ACC Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
7.5
+2300
+30000
Odds Courtesty of Bovada
Season Predictions

This is a really tough call because, the way the schedule lines up for the Tar Heels, there will be many pivotal moments in the season that will make this a winning or losing ticket. Let’s just say that UNC is 3-1 after their non-conference slate.  The house is asking for a 5-3 conference record to hit the over and I just don’t see it.

All four conference road games look difficult on paper and the neutral site season opener is no walk in the park either. The positive outlook is UNC avoids Florida State, Clemson and Louisville this season, all projected to be strong in the Atlantic division. The bad news is the only two soft home games on the schedule are Wake Forest and Virginia.  I’m expecting them to stay under 7.5 wins.

2015 Projections
ACC (Coastal)
ACC Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
5th
4-4
7-5
UNDER 7.5

We asked a few other experts on North Carolina football. Here’s what they had to say about the Tar Heels’ upcoming season.

asawins

ASA
ASAWins.com

UNDER 8 Wins – North Carolina has many of their key players back this year and while they might be better, this number is set a full two games higher than their win total last year. The Heels finished 6-7 a year ago and we think their chances of winning seven or less this year are much greater than their chances of winning nine or more. Let’s look at their wins last year. They beat Liberty & Duke badly. Their other four wins came by 4, 5, 1, & 5 points. Their losses, on the other hand, came by 29, 15, 17, 7, 27, and 28 points. Obviously their losses were big and their wins were tight. The Heels defense was horrendous giving up just under 500 YPG and almost 40 PPG. They gave up 47 points or more in four games last year, including 71 to East Carolina. They’ve hired a new DC (Chizik) to try and help but it won’t get done in one year. Head coach Larry Fedora has gotten worse head year going from 8 to 7 to 6 wins in his three seasons here. Their ACC road games are fairly tough and we don’t see a huge improvement.

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