FTRS: We know Shaun Draugn is back. Who else is returning from suspension to the Tar Heel starting line up for this weekend?
THF: Good question. I know most Carolina fans were hoping that with the open date last week and two weeks between games that the status of more players would be determined. The rumor mill has said to expect safety Deaunta Williams to be cleared, which would be a real shot in the arm to the defense since the entire starting secondary was suspended.
FTRS: Was T.J. Yates performance against LSU a surprise to Heel fans or was it expected maturation?
THF: I would rate it as 75% surprise and 25% maturation. Yates was very impressive as a freshman, throwing to guys like Brandon Tate and Hakeem Nicks (both of whom had big days in the NFL last Sunday), so there has been a lingering question as to whether Yates' ability was inflated by NFL-caliber receivers. As a junior, Yates was plagued by bad decision-making and frequent inaccuracy, so the bullets he threw against LSU were somewhat of a surprise, but he showed the poise of a senior with over 30 career starts. You also can't discount the maturation of his receivers as well - Zack Pianalto may be among the ACC's best at tight end and a year's growth for Jhey Boyd and Erik Highsmith is crucial as well.
FTRS: Are Heel fans still as excited about football as compared to what they were in July or early August?
THF: I don't know if excited is the word, mostly because of the uncertainty surrounding the football investigation. It's hard to generate excitement when fans don't know who is playing from week to week. But I do think Carolina fans are cautiously optimistic given the team's positive second-half performance against LSU.
FTRS: The ACC had a pretty abysmal weekend in Week 2. Who are your picks for the ACC OOC match ups this week? Could a solid OOC weekend regain the ACC's preseason luster?
THF: I don't think anything is going to regain the luster given the fact the league failed all of the big OOC tests, but a solid weekend could stop the pointing and laughing that has gone on at the league's expense this week. I like NCSU over Cincinnati because the Pack defense seems to be getting the job done. And of course, Duke will probably have no shot at Bama, but the other games are all toss-ups. I do think an angry VT will expose a 2-0 ECU squad that has played no one yet, and Maryland has a shot because you're always in the game against a Bill Stewart-coached team. But beyond that, I am gun-shy to even try to pick anything in the ACC this year.
FTRS: What are the odds of Butch Davis being terminated come season's end?
THF: Terminated? Short of the NCAA saying he is guilty of something serious, the chances of termination are 0%. The chancellor and AD are both standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Davis so far. Conventional wisdom among the sports media and pundits in this area is that Davis will leave of his own volition to go to a place where there is a certain, shall we say, more casual attitude about NCAA violations, but I think it's too early to make that call.
FTRS: Who wins this game and why?
THF: If UNC was at full strength, I would have no hesitation picking the Tar Heels. But until the depth of suspensions and hold-outs is determined for this game, it's hard to say. There are a couple of keys to the game: 1) Can UNC's offense maintain the production it had against LSU, and will Tech's defense get caught up to Al Groh's system in time to face the Heels? 2) Can UNC's front seven contain Josh Nesbitt and the triple option, forcing Nesbitt to throw? and 3) How will Tech respond after a puzzling loss at Kansas, and conversely how will UNC respond to yet another game filled with uncertainty? Still, Carolina is at home and has had an extra week to get ready for Paul Johnson's offense, so I will go with my heart over my head and say UNC, 24-17.
FTRS: For Tech fans visiting Chapel Hill this weekend, what are three landmarks everyone has to see? What restaurant/bar is the definitive Chapel Hill hang out on gamedays?
THF: Franklin Street is the iconic small college town Main Street with bars, restaurants, and local shops that give a place like Chapel Hill its charm. You can walk from Franklin Street through the two main quads on campus (called McCorkle Place and Polk Place) on the way to the stadium to see two of UNC's most famous symbols, the Old Well and the Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower, as well as the old Wilson Library and The Pit, a brick courtyard adjacent to the main library, dining hall, student union, and student store that is the hub of student activity. All of these are in the 4 or 5 blocks between Franklin Street and Kenan Stadium.
As for restaurants and bars, Top of the Hill at the corner of Franklin and Columbia Streets is a popular game-day hangout. For a more local feel, try Linda's on Franklin Street (near the Morehead Planetarium) or Bub's at the corner of Henderson and Rosemary Streets, one block off Franklin.
Thanks to Tar Heel Fan for responding to our inquiries! Go Jackets!