Football scheduling is one of the most widely debated topics in college football. Although a team only has four out-of-conference games to play with, a lot of members of the media criticize when teams schedule cream puffs to get their season going, instead of making dates with more challenging opponents.
In the past, teams were wary of scheduling big out-of-conference games because one loss could potentially ruin their season. While this is still partially true, the lure of big, prime time TV dates with BCS-quality opponents has tempted athletic directors to get on the phone and dial-up challenging opponents, not just cupcake wins.
Last year, the Tar Heels battled LSU in enemy territory and almost pulled off an incredible comeback upset. Although it ended up in the L-column, it was a great experience for the coaches, players and fans to participate in such a marquee match-up. It would be difficult to argue that the game was a bad experience for Butch Davis and his kids.
Most of the attention surrounding the Tar Heels is now off the field because of the vast array of allegations and possible sanctions for the program. While this could completely transform (ruin) what North Carolina football is, we can only assume (for now) that these transgressions will only result in minor infractions.
Another benefit of these big-time games is how they effect bringing in new players, because recruiting is no longer a regional affair for the big boys, getting every advantage possible. If UNC could go on the road and defeat a major program, it would have a major impact on the minds of kids looking to make a decision.
Here are eight teams Tar Heel fans wouldn't mind seeing on future schedules.
This would be the battle of the outlaw programs.
The Trojans were the most recent recipient of a significant punishment handed down by the NCAA. A two-year postseason ban and reduction in scholarships split the opinion of fans, some felt it was too lenient and others felt that it was unnecessary to punish the coaches and players who had nothing to do with the wrongdoings.
This would be a great chance for the Tar Heels to extend their recruiting influence westward and add to their tradition of bringing in top-shelf high school athletes.
Let’s start with one team that is confirmed to take on the Tar Heels in the future.
The North Carolina/South Carolina border represents the break between the relatively weak, apathetic ACC, and the dominant, devoted SEC. Although the Clemson Tigers play in the ACC, their fan base does not quite match-up with their arch-rival South Carolina Gamecocks.
South Carolina has never been the powerhouse program that many of their conference counterparts are, but Steve Spurrier has. They captured their first SEC East title in school history in 2010 and look primed for success in the next few years. Spurrier has always been an outstanding recruiter and the Gamecocks are riding high with him at the helm.
This is going to be a great game. Assuming the Heels don’t get hit too hard with sanctions, both sides of the ball should be littered with future first-round NFL draft picks. The teams are familiar with each other, having played in the past, but at this point they are as strong as they have been in a while, which should make for an interesting contest.
These teams are scheduled to battle in 2013, some time in late August, to kickoff the season. It should be a barn-burner.
Last meeting: 2006, L 15-21
The Broncos have become the media darlings of the 21st century. Coach Chris Peterson has built an empire in a place few believed was possible. He has led the Broncos to two BCS appearances in the 2000s and there is no reason not to expect more now that the Broncos are in the Mountain West.
It would be interesting to see the Tar Heel baby-blue matched up against the royal-blue of the Broncos, but aside from that, it would be a good matchup between two contrasting styles.
Boise likes to employ the spread offense with every possible gimmick play in the book, to compensate for their lack of four- and five-star recruits. UNC is a pro-style team on both sides of the ball and often lacks discipline (a Butch Davis-coached team...no way).
Whether it would take place on the blue field in Boise or in Chapel Hill, a game between these two teams would bring quite an interest.
Last Meeting: Never
Not many people have had a statue erected for them as quickly as Nick Saban has in Tuscaloosa, but his accomplishments have already put him in the pantheon of college football.
Although the Alabama Crimson Tide have only won one National Championship in Saban's four years at the helm, he has put them firmly back at the top of the country and has them competing year-in and year-out. He is 21-3 in SEC play over the past three years, a remarkable accomplishment given the hellish nature of the conference.
The future looks bright for Saban and his team. Given that he has already made the jump to the NFL (and failed miserably) and has the perfect job, it's reasonable to believe he will be in Tuscaloosa for the next 20 years. There is no doubt that multiple BCS titles are around the corner for this team.
Putting Alabama on the schedule would almost certainly end up in a loss for UNC, but as the LSU game showed, the Tar Heels have the athletes to compete with anyone in the country.
A visit to Tuscaloosa or welcoming the Tide to Chapell Hill would be a great experience for all involved.
Last Meeting: 1993, L 10-24
Ah, we come to the team with their own network and a following like few other teams have.
Notre Dame is one of the rare teams that draw interest from a national fanbase. Crappy NBC ratings aside, Notre Dame is a major team to have on the schedule and it's something the Tar Heels should consider going forward.
Because they are not tied to any conference, the Irish are free to play whoever they like each season.
Chip Kelly finally has the Fighting Irish rolling in the right direction; this could be the year they finally break through nationally. He has done a great job of recruiting over the past few years and should see the benefit of that in the future.
Notre Dame is scheduled to play Wake Forrest and Maryland in 2011, so why not add another ACC team to the mix going forward? It has only been three years since the teams played, but it feels like another meeting is definitely due.
Last Meeting: 2008, W 29-24
Okay, so we just did that.
But, how good would a sequel be?
I’m sure most Tar Heel fans were bitterly disappointed. Just days before the game, they were stripped of nearly all of their best players and were forced to do battle with the LSU Tigers on the road, with one arm tied behind their backs.
Despite this, after the Tigers jumped out to an audacious 30-10 halftime lead, North Carolina came storming back and nearly pulled off the upset. The Heels drove to the six-yard line with a chance to punch it in for the win, but T.J. Yates was unable to deliver (pretend to be surprised).
LSU had nearly every break go their way, and if it wasn’t for a few of Patrick Peterson’s heroics, the Tar Heels would have had a dream start to their season. Instead, the personnel losses mounted and the team sputtered to an 8-5 finish.
A re-match would satisfy the appetite of Tar Heels fans that are itching to prove that they can play with the big boys.
Last Meeting: 2010, L 24-30
Believe it or not, they play football pretty well too.
The Wildcats are a team on the rise. The FCS squad has been led by longtime coach Andy Talley for 25 years and has made the second-tier quarterfinals in three straight seasons. Their lone National Championship came in 2009 when they defeated the Montana Grizzlies.
Because of their recent success, the program has been extended an invitation to join the Big East Conference. A number of issues remain as far as making the jump is concerned, but as the program continues to grow they should find themselves in a big conference sooner rather than later.
Giving the Tar Heels a quality lower-echelon opponent to open the season would serve as the perfect warm-up to conference play. North Carolina has a habit of playing close games with FCS teams (William & Mary in 2010, McNeese State in 2008), so if these two teams were pitted against each other, I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t a blowout.
The up-and-coming Villanova Wildcats would be a perfect out-of-conference opponent for the Tar Heels in the future.
Last Meeting: Never
Tell me you would not love to see the Warriors on this future road trip. Everyone needs a reason to go to Hawaii during a stressful semester, and this would be as good a reason as I can think of.
The Hawaii Warriors have quite a long history, given the fact that they play in a state that wasn't declared one until 1959. Their first game was played in 1909 and they were soon playing games against other universities during the 1920s-1930s. They finally became a Division I school in 1974 and quickly found success through a series of coaches.
The most recent of said success came in this decade, under the guidance of June Jones. Although Jones left for SMU a couple of seasons ago, Hawaii still managed to win a share of the WAC Championship in 2010 with Nevada and Boise State. With Jones' pass-heavy spread-offense blueprint still in tact, the Warriors do enough to remain competitive both in and out of the conference.
So who cares if it's a 10 time-zone trip across the country and the Pacific to take on the team with the most unique home-field advantage in college football? Playing the Warriors on the road would be a fun one for the fans.
Last Meeting: Never