The Tar Heels earned the dubious distinction of being labeled the ACC’s biggest disappointment in the midseason report, and that’s because they fell so far so fast. UNC was picked by the media to finish third in the Coastal Division, but the Tar Heels have played so poorly they’ve dropped even out of ESPN.com’s weekly ACC bowl projections.
UNC started the season with a 27-10 loss at South Carolina in which the defense struggled, but the overall result wasn’t unexpected. The surprise was three straight losses to Georgia Tech, East Carolina and Virginia Tech -- and complete irrelevance in the ACC standings just one year after winning eight games. The 55-31 home loss to East Carolina was an embarrassing microcosm of UNC’s weaknesses on both sides of the ball.
Second-year coach Larry Fedora has continued -- even through last week -- to say that this year’s offense still has the potential to be better than last year’s, but the group is No. 114 in rushing offense, No. 102 in turnover margin and No. 93 in scoring offense at just 23.6 points per game. Quarterback Bryn Renner has been underwhelming and injured, but the supporting cast hasn’t been much better. There’s plenty of blame to go around.
Not only have the Heels been unable to run the ball, but they can’t stop the run, either. UNC is ranked No. 101 in the country in rushing defense.
It’s hard to tell if the offense or defense has been the bigger problem.
Offensive MVP: TE Eric Ebron
He leads the team with 23 receptions for 333 yards. Against Georgia Tech, Ebron posted a career-high 106 yards receiving on six catches. The last time a tight end led the team in receptions was Mike Chatham with 20 in 1980. Ebron is third nationally among tight ends with 66.6 yards receiving per game.
Defensive MVP: LB Jeff Schoettmer
The former walk-on has started every game this season and leads the team with 44 tackles, including a career-high 13 stops against Virginia Tech. He also has one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry.