North Carolina closes out its schedule against four of its NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision opponents that are all currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 Poll. The Tar Heels need two wins to become bowl eligible and make it 3-for-3 in bowl appearances under coach Mack Brown.
Assuming one of their wins comes on Nov. 20 against Wofford, a Football Championship Subdivision foe that currently owns a 1-5 record and sits in last play in the Southern Conference, where can the Heels get their sixth win of the season?
Obviously, the more wins UNC can accumulate, the more attractive it will be and the higher quality the bowl game.
Here’s a look at Carolina’s FBS road to bowl eligibility:
at No. 13 Notre Dame (5-1) Oct. 30
The bad news is Carolina has an 0-12 record playing in South Bend. The good news from that? All but two of those losses came more than 50 years ago. The Irish will still be formidable though, their only loss this season came to No. 2 Cincinnati.
Reason for optimism: The personnel is different, as Carolina has been reminded throughout this season. But don’t discount the fact that it played Notre Dame close well into the fourth quarter last season. The Heels will have confidence that they can play with an Irish team that hasn’t looked overwhelming in all but one of their games this season.
Cause for concern: Notre Dame’s secondary is one of the nation’s best, as they’re tied for fifth with 10 interceptions. The Heels haven’t performed well in night time road games, just look back at losses to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. Kickoff in South Bend is at 7:30 p.m.
vs. No. 16 Wake Forest (6-0) Nov. 6
This is the second straight meeting in the UNC-Wake series as a non-conference game. The Demon Deacons have been the most consistent team in the ACC this season. Quarterback Sam Hartman threw for 429 yards and four touchdowns against the Heels last season.
Reason for optimism: The game is again in Kenan Stadium where, Carolina historically owns a 43-18 -2 series advantage over Wake including last season’s 59-53 win. The Deacs last win in Chapel Hill was a 24-17 victory in 2006.
Cause for concern: Wake’s defensive line has been solid this season, tying for eighth nationally with an average of 3.5 sacks per game. (They’re tied with Colorado State and Pitt, which is yet another cause for concern against the Panthers.)
at No. 23 Pitt (5-1) Nov. 11
The Panthers have quietly put together a solid season despite inexplicably losing to Western Michigan 44-41 at home a week after a 41-34 win at Tennessee. Quarterback Kenny Pickett has emerged as an underdog Heisman Trophy candidate in the process.
Reason for optimism: Did I mention the Panthers lost to Western Michigan? Since joining the ACC the program is on a first-name basis with Letdowns. Carolina had won six straight in the series until a 34-27 loss the last time they met in 2019.
Cause for concern: The Panthers’ offense ranks third nationally averaging 48.3 points per game. Even if they’re having an off game, they can put up points, which Carolina’s offense has had trouble matching on the road this season. UNC has averaged just 16 points in its two road losses.
at No. 18 N.C. State (5-1) Nov. 26
Oh, the Pack likely hasn’t forgotten UNC quarterback Sam Howell’s words after the Heels’ win last season. Howell, responding to a N.C. State hype video released on social media, said that the score could have been worse. N.C. State could be playing for much higher stakes in the game, like the Atlantic Division title and a spot in the ACC championship game.
Reason for optimism: Brown has not lost to the Wolfpack since his return to Chapel Hill in 2019. Carolina has won both meetings by an average margin of 29 points — including its 41-10 win in Raleigh.
Cause for concern: The Wolfpack defense ranks sixth nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 14.3 points per game. NCSU coach Dave Doeren declared the Pack’s “curse” was over after they beat Clemson, so they team is going into games looking to win instead of expecting something to go wrong.