With the 2013 college football season rapidly approaching, fans are craving any and every taste of what is to come in what should be an invigorating year. As we inch closer to the action kicking off on Aug. 29, I'll release schedule analysis for a new ACC school every other day. For now, let's take a look at the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Aug. 29: at South Carolina
Sept. 7: Middle Tennessee State
Sept. 14: Open
Sept. 21: at Georgia Tech
Sept. 28: East Carolina
Oct. 5: at Virginia Tech
Oct. 12: Open
Oct. 17 - Miami
Oct. 26: Boston College
Nov. 2: at N.C. State
Nov. 9: Virginia
Nov. 16: at Pittsburgh
Nov. 23: Old Dominion
Nov. 30: Duke
Schedule obtained from the official website of North Carolina athletics
Depending on how you view North Carolina's 2012 season, the Tar Heels were extremely close to an 11-1 finish, but also not far from a 6-6 record. No matter how you analyze the results, though, it's obvious that Giovani Bernard was a key player throughout the year.
His play was also instrumental in close wins over Miami and N.C. State.
UNC is now without Bernard, and quarterback Bryn Renner is expected to be the face of the program in 2013. Renner and his teammates open things up with a tough road trip to South Carolina, and their next five matchups don't make things much easier.
We'll likely know by the middle of October whether or not head coach Larry Fedora has a contender in the Coastal Division. If things go right for the Tar Heels, it's certainly possible.
Renner has been a very good quarterback throughout his career, but he takes his game to the next level this season. Racking up over 3,000 yards for the third straight year, he leads a dynamic North Carolina offense along with wide receiver Quinshad Davis and tight end Eric Ebron.
Neither A.J. Blue nor Romar Morris can replace Bernard, but together they are able to fill the hole at running back. Tackle James Hurst turns in the All-American season he's capable of, and offensive coordinator Blake Anderson puts together one of the most explosive units in the nation.
The defense lost its most talented players in defensive tackle Sylvester Williams and linebacker Kevin Reddick, but their second year in the 4-2-5 goes more smoothly, and a healthy secondary keeps the Heels from getting lit up through the air.
North Carolina pulls off wins in four of its first six and goes undefeated from there. The program enjoys its first 10-win season in 16 years.
Just when you thought the defense couldn't get any worse, it does. A lousy defense becomes even more pitiful after losing its top two contributors and the offense is forced to score 50 points just to win games.
Without Bernard, Renner is unable to be as efficient under center, and the running backs are forced to carry a greater load as a result. Former offensive guard Jonathan Cooper's impact becomes more apparent as the O-line struggles and Anderson's group takes a step back.
South Carolina, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Miami each get the best of UNC, and a demoralized team limps out of a rivalry game at N.C. State with a loss.
Talk in Chapel Hill takes an early shift to basketball season before the guys on the gridiron wrap up their 5-7 year.
The Coastal Division is a four-team race, and the Tar Heels are a part of it. Like it or not, Renner is not only one of the top quarterbacks in the conference, he's one of the most experienced. If the fifth-year senior is consistent in making smart decisions and steps up in crucial moments, he'll put his team in excellent position within the division and go down as the most decorated signal-caller in school history.
Renner can't do it all, though, and the defense needs to improve drastically if this team has a shot at an ACC Championship. For that to happen, someone is going to have to unexpectedly step up. It's tough to think of who that will be after North Carolina gave up over 30 points on six different occasions in 2012.
This program has a chance to win its first conference title in over three decades, but just like last season, the performance of one player is enough to separate a .500 record from a championship year.
Also check out:
Schedule analysis for Duke
Schedule analysis for Pitt
Schedule analysis for Virginia
Schedule analysis for Clemson
Schedule analysis for Florida State
Schedule analysis for Boston College
Schedule analysis for Wake Forest
Schedule analysis for NC State
Schedule analysis for Maryland
Schedule analysis for Syracuse
Follow me on Twitter at @MarkCCarroll
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!