Earlier this week, Pac-12 blogger Ted Miller was outraged -- and it was all the Tar Heels’ fault.
No way, he wrote, should North Carolina be considered a top 25 team of the next three years – not when Oregon State was left out entirely.
“With all due respect to North Carolina,” Miller wrote, “the Tar Heels at No. 21 makes no sense whatsoever.”
He’s right. They probably should have been higher -- ahead of Virginia Tech and TCU.
We’re talking about the future here, the next three years -- not Oregon State’s No. 4 ranking in 2000, or the Tar Heels’ five losing seasons since then. We’re talking about what Larry Fedora is building there, not what collapsed before he was hired. Want to know how highly Oregon State is thought of in Pac-12 country right now, with no clear answer at quarterback?
The Pac-12 bloggers had Oregon State at No. 6 in their post-spring power rankings, while we had North Carolina at No. 4, behind Clemson, Florida State and Miami -- all teams in the college football future power ranking. Not bad company. And don’t forget that last year, in just Fedora’s first season, North Carolina would have been playing in the ACC title game if it weren’t for that pesky postseason ban. You don’t think they wouldn’t already be in the top 25?
Here are three more good reasons why North Carolina deserved that spot in the future power rankings, and why the Tar Heels will keep it over the next three years:
1. Fedora’s offense has worked everywhere he's been. Southern Miss and Oklahoma State both saw their numbers improve under his guidance. Last year, UNC set school records for total points (487) and points per game (40.6). They should be even better this fall with starting quarterback Bryn Renner returning, and an underrated offensive line.
2. If he can recruit good players in the wake of NCAA sanctions, imagine what Fedora could do once they start winning consistently. Right now, they’ve got the No. 22 recruiting class in the country. North Carolina’s roster will always have talented offensive players, and the program has built a strong offensive line tradition lately.
3. Defense will be the ultimate question under Fedora, but Vic Koenning has a proven track record. I remember Koenning from his days at Clemson, where each of his four defenses finished in the top 25 in scoring, total, and pass efficiency defense. He also helped the Illinois defense improve dramatically (from 91st in the country in 2009 to 38th in 2010 and seventh in 2011.) If given the time, Koenning can build Carolina’s defense into a consistent strength.
It also can’t be ignored that the Tar Heels genuinely like playing for Fedora. He’s as up-tempo as his offense and the guys actually have fun at practice. (Who wouldn’t want to play for a guy willing to prank his own quarterback?)
If this were called the past power rankings, Oregon State would have more of an argument. Tomorrow? I’d pick UNC to win that game. Anything else would have to be called an upset.