The North Carolina Tar Heels head into the 2021 college football season with College Football Playoff aspirations. They are listed at +5000 to win it all, a price they share with Oregon, Texas, USC, and Wisconsin.
UNC hasn’t entered a season with expectations this high since 2013, when they opened at +8000 to claim the national title.
The Tar Heels are coming off a season in which one could argue they left meat on the bone. They finished 8-4 overall (7-3 in conference), but frustrating three-point losses at Florida State and at Virginia stunted what would’ve been an opportunity to play themselves into the ACC Championship game and perhaps even punch a ticket to the CFP.
|UNC To Win CFB Championship||Odds|
Heisman Hopeful Sam Howell Leads The Way
North Carolina’s title hopes rest largely on the right shoulder of junior signal-caller Sam Howell, who resides among the favorites at +1400 on DraftKings Sportsbook to walk away with the Heisman Trophy. Howell completed 68.1 percent of his passes last season, averaging 10.3 yards per attempt, and tossed 30 touchdowns with only seven interceptions. He added five rushing scores and a receiving touchdown for good measure.
Howell has the goods — he’s expected to be a high draft pick in the 2022 NFL Draft — but he’ll be without his top four weapons from last season — running backs Javonte Williams and Michael Carter and wide receivers Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome.
Heels Boast Talent On Both Sides Of The Ball
There is still talent on the offense in spite of the key losses. Tennessee graduate transfer Ty Chandler, a versatile running back who has compiled 3,291 yards over 46 career games, will have the opportunity to fill the backfield void and lead an inexperienced group. Meanwhile, sophomore wide receiver Josh Downs is viewed as a potential breakout star.
Offensive coordinator Phil Longo on Downs: “I smile every time I hear Josh Downs’ name because this is a guy right now who has really done a very good job, as cliche as it sounds, at getting better every day that he’s here,”
Defensively, head coach Mack Brown and his staff hope a bigger and deeper front line will allow them to pressure the opposition for all four quarters (or more). The goal is to cause problems without relying too heavily on blitzes and schemed pressure. If the defense can do some heavy lifting early in the season, it will afford their young offense to iron out necessary wrinkles.
No Time To Waste
North Carolina, ranked No. 10 in the AP poll, opens on the road against a traditionally tough Virginia Tech program as 5.5-point favorites. They won’t have the luxury of easing into the season. However, should they clear their first hurdle, it’s not outlandish to envision an unscathed Tar Heels team hosting the Miami Hurricanes (+7500 to win the CFP) on October 16 — the first ranked opponent on their schedule — in a game with ACC title and perhaps College Football Playoff implications. The Heels will then head to South Bend two weeks later to face off against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (+4000) in another tilt that could go a long way to determining their ultimate fate.