Bird: Coach K called the theft of Syracuse and Pittsburgh a "coup" for hoops. What do UNC fans think about ACC Expansion 4.0? Are more Heels timid or excited about the prospect of added basketball powers? Any thoughts flying out from the ACC baseball fans about 'Cuse's lack of a baseball team and Pitt's terrible group on the college diamond?
Doc: I think the general feeling is positive about the additions of Pitt and Syracuse. If the synthesis of the ACC and Big East was inevitable in some fashion, then Pitt and 'Cuse are the best fits across the board for the ACC. Syracuse was an expansion target 8 years ago and the southward migration of large portions of western PA to the heart of ACC country made the Panthers a logical choice. Frankly, ACC basketball could use a shot in the arm as UNC and Duke have remained strong while the rest of the league has foundered somewhat.Of course purists will grumble and groan but this is the future of college athletics and it is good to see the ACC be on the front lines rather than reactive. As for baseball, I don't think Pitt and Syracuse were added for their RPI boosts in May.Bird: Let's hear a little about the departure of Butch Davis. Tech fans took it as a pretty big shock when he was let go. What percentage of Heel fans really wanted Davis out of Chapel Hill? From THF's perspective, was the termination justified?
Doc: Why couldn't you ask a simple question, like how do we get lasting peace in the Middle East?Bird: A quick glance at the tackle tallies for 2011's UNC defense shows that Zach Brown and Kevin Reddick picked up where they left off in 2010. Does the 2011 linebacking corps have the ability to play like 2010's arguably more talented group?
I think the percentage of fans who wanted Davis gone was low, but there were some who felt like maybe he had to go. It has been a very polarizing issue, not only for the fact the firing happened at all, but the manner and timing of how it happened. Many fans rightfully praise Davis for raising UNC football from the depths of what was a miserable decade to respectability and contention, but he also brought the NCAA to campus for major violations for only the second time in the history of the athletic program, and the first in a half-century.
Our position at THF was always to let all the facts come out and then make a decision from there. Again, this was quite a conundrum because while Davis was never specifically named in any violations, the fact remains that 9 major violations were accused of happening on his watch. Whether or not his firing was justified, I'm not sure he could have remained as coach. Nine majors is just something you don't survive.
Doc: One of the by-products of the NCAA troubles in 2010 was that, with injuries, suspensions, and hold-outs, Reddick and Brown got significantly more snaps than they might have otherwise. This experience has clearly been beneficial through the first three games of this season. It's hard to surpass the 2010's talent and depth, but this group can hold their own.Bird: Tech was the only team with a >50% 3rd down conversion rate against the Heels in 2010. What aspects of the Heel defense have improved from 2010 that would help to slow down Tech's fairly capable 2011 offense?
Doc: The defensive line has been very impressive so far this season. Quinton Coples returned to defensive end, joined on the other side by Donte Paige-Moss. Tydreke Powell and juco transfer Sylvester Williams are on the inside and lead a deep group of linemen that have made a living early in opponents' backfields. It will be a tall task for the D-line to not only contain the run in a Paul Johnson offense but also to put pressure on the Jackets' new-found aerial attack.Bird: ACC fans have heard a lot about Bryn Renner and we've all dreaded the return of Erik Highsmith and Dwight Jones. What's the biggest difference between Renner and Yates' style of play? It also appears as if the passing offense is still focused around Dwight. Is this an accurate assumption or have other receivers emerged in 2011?
Doc: Bryn Renner is a very accurate passer, as evidenced by his 80% completion rate through the first three games. Renner is probably a better passer than T.J. Yates, but Yates' experience as a four-year starter shone through last season as he was an excellent game manager and rarely made turnover-causing mistakes. Renner is not at that point yet as he has not learned how to throw the ball away and tries to force things that aren't always there. When he gets that level of savvy, he has the skill set to be an exceptional QB.Bird: What offensive player has to have a good game in order for the Heels to beat Tech? Who is the man for this 2011 Heel squad?
Dwight Jones has proven himself as one of the top receivers in the ACC. He has hands covered in glue and his length and route-running ability make his difficult to defend. The UNC passing game certainly runs through him. Erik Highsmith and Jhey Boyd have big-play potential but don't have the consistency of Jones.
Doc: Redshirt freshman running back Giovani Bernard has lived up to his billing as an impact player so far this season. Bernard is a speedy back with great field vision and a capacity to break the big play. He has pretty much wrested the starting spot away from senior power back Ryan Houston, but Houston should also get significant touches, particularly in short-yardage situations. Whoever the hot back is - Bernard or Houston - needs to get UNC moving on the ground to allow Renner and Jones to stretch the field in the passing game.Bird: Tech has defeated the Heels 6 straight in ATL so I think a good number of Tech fans are confident about the odds. Who do you think wins on Saturday?
Doc: Atlanta is something of a Bermuda Triangle for UNC in both football and men's basketball, and this is Carolina's first road game of the season. Tech has the appearance of an offensive juggernaut with staggering numbers in points and yardage, and UNC's 2011 defense is certainly not its 2010 defense. Then again, Tech has not seen an opponent with the offensive capability of UNC. This could be a wide-open, scoreboard-busting game. My heart is always with the Heels, but my head sees Tech winning a wild one, 42-38.Thanks goes out to Doc and the Tar Heel Fan Blog.