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Countdown to Kickoff: The Case for North Carolina as ACC Champions

If it isn’t Clemson, who else could bring home the ACC title? Maybe Mack Brown’s team in Chapel Hill

Military Bowl Presented by Northrop Grumman - North Carolina v Temple Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

Now we’re only a couple weeks of the season, and at this point, there’s not much sense in thinking that anyone but Clemson will be winning the ACC Championship Game. But I think, as weird as this year has been, it wouldn’t be that weird to see someone other than Clemson win the ACC this season. Looking at the other teams in the ACC, I think Mack Brown’s Tar Heels have the best shot at unseating the reigning champs.

Reason 1: An Easy Path to the Championship Game

Looking at UNC’s schedule this year, they play five teams who had winning records last season. One of them is the Charlotte 49ers. Two of them (Wake Forest and Virginia) lost game-changing quarterbacks in their respective offenses, and then there’s Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. They completely avoid Clemson, and outside of Virginia Tech and Notre Dame, they should win the rest of their games pretty handily.

Reason 2: Sam Howell and the Tar Heels Offense

Now, an easy schedule by itself won’t get the job done, but Mack Brown’s offense has everything it needs to sweep through the schedule this season. As a true freshman last season, Sam Howell took the ACC by storm. Outside of Trevor Lawrence, I think it’s safe to say that Howell was the most impressive quarterback in the ACC. He finished with over 3,600 yards, 38 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions.

Outside of just Howell, the Tar Heels offense has tons of weapons. Howell gets his top two receivers back, both of which were 1,000-yard receivers, in Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome. The two combined for 22 touchdowns. The Tar Heels also return their top two rushers in Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. They totaled nearly 2,000 yards between them.

Reason 3: Improvement on Defense

Things on the offense sound great, but what about the defense? The Tar Heels finished 44th in Defensive SP+ last season, and they could very well be better this season with some key players returning.

The star of the Heel’s defense is former-quarterback-turned-linebacker Chazz Surratt. Last year, he led the defense in tackles (115) and also added in 15 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, and 10 quarterback hits. The line and secondary weren’t quite as solid, but have a solid foundation that should see some improvement this season. And with Defensive Coordinator Jay Bateman, they’ve got the right man on the job.

Do you think UNC has a chance at the title this year?