Uncertainty on the Biggest Stage
The University of North Carolina knew what it wanted when it hired Butch Davis before the end of the 2006 season.
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After going 54-63 during the nine seasons following Mack Brown’s departure for Texas, the University yearned for something it had lost on the gridiron: relevance.
Two bowl appearances, three Top 25 recruiting classes and a nationally televised spring game later, North Carolina football has regained national attention and set its sights on winning the ACC in 2010.
However, this summer has left the program scrambling to regain something else: credibility.
Just days before the biggest game of the Butch Davis era, the program is wrapped in scandal. Questions regarding improper contact with agents and academic infractions threaten to sideline a majority of a defense that ranked sixth in the nation just a season ago. Various reports claim as many as 12 players, including several preseason All-Americans, could miss some or all of the 2010 season due to the potential violations.
Uncertainty lingers over the Tar Heels and the rest of Chapel Hill. Heels’ fans worry that the season once full of so much promise is unraveling before it even begins. Most, if not all of the questions surrounding the 2010 season have yet to be answered.
On Saturday, Carolina will get some answers on college football’s biggest stage. The Tar Heels will face traditional SEC powerhouse LSU in the third Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome.
For the Heels, the game will serve as the first steps toward normalcy after a tumultuous off-season. Senior quarterback TJ Yates and the offense will try to take advantage of an LSU defense that returns only four starters but is deep in athleticism. Yates’s performance could tighten his hold on the starting job or send him to the sideline in favor of redshirt freshman Bryn Renner.
No matter which players start for the defense, senior safety Deunta Williams and company will do their best to contain Tigers’ running back Stevan Ridley and rattle quarterback Jordan Jefferson.
But more importantly, the game gives Carolina a chance to achieve the relevance and credibility it has pursued for three seasons. Could there be a better opportunity? The Heels have a chance to defeat a traditional powerhouse from the conference that has become the gold standard in college football. UNC can earn a signature win for the ACC in front of a national TV audience.
Even more eyes will be set on the Tar Heels when they are featured on ESPN’s College GameDay for the first time. UNC is used to the exposure during basketball season, but a visit from the GameDay crew at a Carolina football game is proof of the program’s rise. GameDay’s presence makes the Tar Heels part of the undisputed game of the week.
As a college football fan, GameDay is the show that dominates my Saturday mornings. Seeing Carolina’s colors and signs behind Fowler, Herbie, Desmond and Corso will be a dream come true for any Tar Heel fan. Let’s just hope that it’s a Ram’s head, and not a Tiger head that dons Corso’s top at the end of the show.
Saturday night, the Tar Heels will begin a season no one can or will be able to predict. Carolina essentially has its back against the wall before Labor Day. A win could set the tone for 2010. A loss will only feed the uncertainty and doubts surrounding the program.
UNC football is now desperate for credibility. A win on Saturday could be the first step in making us all believers, again.