North Carolina: Don't Be Hasty With The Expectations

Rachel ScallContributor IJuly 31, 2009

WINSTON SALEM, NC - OCTOBER 27: T.J.Yates #13 of the University of North Carolina Tar Heels during the ACC game at the Groves Stadium, on October 27, 2007 in Winston Salem,North Carolina.  (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

It is difficult to predict anything meaningful about UNC football and where the team will end up in the standings.

Sure, the Tar Heels are picked to finish third in the Coastal Division in the ACC Preseason Media Football Poll. But if last year's football season taught us anything, it is that ACC football is unpredictable—especially when it comes to the Heels.

Predicting Carolina to finish third implies that UNC's lineup will be healthy. That means quarterbacks can't be fracturing ankles and receivers can’t be tearing ligaments.

Last season, the Tar Heels were plagued by injuries to key players. Quarterback Cameron Sexton did the best he could after stepping in for TJ Yates. Receiver Hakeem Nicks helped pick up the slack for an injured Brandon Tate. Even with the substitutions, Carolina did not finish second in the Coastal Division as had been predicted.

Injuries were not the only thing that stood in the way of UNC fulfilling the prophecy of the polls.

The ACC is no Big Ten South, but it certainly is competitive.

Last season, the teams that were predicted to lead the ACC pack quickly fell out of the national rankings. Deeper into the season, ACC teams, including North Carolina, were rotating in and out of the polls on a weekly basis.

UNC may have triumphed over big names like Miami, but they fell to lesser teams—including a horrifying blowout against NC State. Unless the Heels have learned to control a game, this season could be eerily similar to '08.

If the Tar Heels want to accomplish a third-place finish—or if they hope to do better—this season will really come down to focus and a desire to win. The Heels cannot come out overconfident and get blown out, like they did against Maryland in '08. They cannot relax on a final play and figure they will win in overtime, like they seemed to react last year against Virginia.

The Tar Heels have an excellent recruiting class coming in, a great coaching staff, and a healthy team—as of now. But until they take the field, it is impossible to make any predictions on their season. Even if Carolina had all the talent in the world, their record of unpredictability proves that their fate lies with whether they can avoid injury, and how badly they want to win.

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