UNC Football Hits Prime Time: Thursday Night ESPN Games Signal a Change

Chuck FortContributor IJune 23, 2009

CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 06:  Head coach Butch Davis of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates towards his offense after a touchdown against the Miami Hurricanes during the first half at Kenan Stadium on October 6, 2007 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  North Carolina defeated Miami 33-27.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

You might have to pull out your calendar to get the full effect of what I am saying. 

If you look at the seventh football game of the year for the Tar Heels, you will notice that the date doesn't line up on Saturday (refer to the bottom of the article where the 2009-2010 Tar Heels football schedule is listed).  

That's of course because the game isn't on a Saturday.  The Tar Heels are hosting what will be the first ever Thursday night game in school history on the Oct. 22.

Hard to believe.  

Of course, Thursday night games haven't been around forever.  But if I don't know anything else, I know that there is only one game shown on Thursday night involving BCS conference teams.  That means every college football nut will have to be watching that game on ESPN, or not at all.

Who would have thought that the Tar Heels, a basketball school (reigning national champs!), could have their football team playing in prime time on the most watched pure sports channel, without competing with another game?  

To top it all off, ESPN liked the thought of Tar Heel blue so much, that the football team was rewarded with back-to-back Thursday night appearances.  


I can't get over all this sudden attention.  I'm thinking somebody is expecting something good from the Heels.

Oh, did I forget to mention who the opponents are?  Of course, I'm sure you noticed on the schedule already—only two of the toughest programs in the conference.

Florida State (Oct. 22, 2009 in Chapel Hill) was utterly dominant in the '90s after joining the ACC in 1992, but has fallen on some tough times lately, especially with the current accusations of academic violations. 

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However, the Seminoles still have the second winningest Division I coach in NCAA football history, despite the possibility of vacating some wins.

Virginia Tech (Oct. 29, 2009 in Blacksburg, VA) was originally invited to join the ACC in order to boost the conference's football prowess.  Led by another tenured coach in Frank Beamer, the Hokies are coming off an ACC title and an Orange Bowl victory.

This is also the team that UNC was playing last year when quarterback TJ Yates went down with a broken foot, causing a shake up in the offensive backfield.

All that being said, I'm pretty pumped about getting a chance to show the nation that the Tar Heel football program means business.  Most of the starters now have two full years of quality experience under their belts, which will help them to take on the likes of these strong opponents.  

I expect the Tar Heels to enter the FSU game with a 5-1 record—the lone blemish being a loss in Atlanta to Georgia Tech's improving option attack.  

With 12 days in between games against Georgia Southern and FSU, the Tar Heels should have plenty of time to prepare mentally and physically to take on the Seminoles, a game which may very well define the season.

One more note to add: The Battle for the Victory Bell, the yearly rivalry game with Duke, will not occur over Thanksgiving weekend to end the season.  

It seems that ACC schedulers are not expecting the same kind of competition from the Blue Devils squad as from the Wolfpack of NC State.  The Tar Heels and Wolfpack have not met in the season-ending game since 1998.  Perhaps this is a new trend and a new level of rivalry.

Don't worry, State fans. We remember 41-10.  "Those who don't learn history are doomed to repeat it," a high school teacher of mine used to say.

So we will remember until Nov. 28, 2009, when the Tar Heels add a page to the rivalry.

UNC Football Schedule 2009-2010

09/05/09 vs. The Citadel  Chapel Hill, N.C. 6:00 pm ET
09/12/09 at Connecticut East Hartford, Conn.
09/19/09 vs. East Carolina  Chapel Hill, N.C. 12 noon ET
09/26/09 at Georgia Tech Atlanta, Ga.
10/03/09 vs. Virginia Chapel Hill, N.C.
10/10/09 vs. Georgia Southern Chapel Hill, N.C.
10/22/09 vs. Florida State Chapel Hill, N.C. 8:00 pm ET
10/29/09 at Virginia Tech Blacksburg, Va. 7:30 pm ET
11/07/09 vs. Duke Chapel Hill, N.C.
11/14/09 vs. Miami  Chapel Hill, N.C.
11/21/09 at Boston College Chestnut Hill, Mass.
11/28/09 at North Carolina State Raleigh, N.C.