2015 North Carolina Football Predictions: 3rd ACC Coastal (2014 record: 6-7)
Head Coach: Larry Fedora
ACC Champion Odds: +1300
National Championship Odds: +70,000
Season Win Totals Over-Under Odds: Over 8 (-115), Under 8 (-125)
While the final record didn’t reflect it, the reality is the North Carolina offense played very well in 2014. They averaged 33.2 YPG on a total of 429.8 YPG of offense. The biggest issue with the overall performance had to do with consistency. There were games when the offense scored 40 or more points and looked unstoppable only to come back the next game against a weaker opponent and be unable to move the ball.
In 2014, the offense was centered around a very talented quarterback in Marquise Williams who did a little bit of everything. He passed for a total of 3,068 yards with 21 TDs while also leading the team in rushing with 788 yards and 13 TDs. The good news, he will be returning for his senior year. The even better new is that his favorite target JR WR Ryan Switzer will also be returning after finishing the 2014 season with 757 yards receiving and 4 TDs. The running game will also get a boost by the return of the team’s best running back in T.J. Logan who accounted for 582 yards and 3 TDs. After factoring in the return of three offensive lineman, it is reasonable for Coach Fedora to expect a little more explosiveness and consistency out of this veteran unit.
While the ACC looks like there is going to be a lot of turnover within the defenses, this is the kind of offense that could certainly take advantage of the youth on the other side of the ball. In fact, a step forward by Williams could make this team a real sleeper for a major bowl game at the end of the season.
Of course, any aspirations Coach Fedora has about getting to the post season will depend heavily on the defense performing better than it did in 2014. Giving up 39 PPG and almost 500 YPG of total offense isn’t going to help the team win many games. Drastic improvement is absolutely necessary after they gave up 240.5 yards per game rushing to opponents.
Unfortunately, Coach Fedora is going to have to depend on a large group of underclassmen if he hopes to get the improvement the team needs. He losses two key players to graduation in Tim Scott who led the team in tackles with 78 to go along with 1 interception and Jeff Schoettmer who was second on the team in tackles with 74 and 2 interceptions, both of which were returned for TDs. That leaves JR DB Desmond Lawrence (71 tackles and 1 interception) as the team’s designated leader and top returning player on defense. He should get some much needed help from fellow JR DB Brian Walker who improved enough to record a total of 38 tackles to go with a team-high 3 interception, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Coach Fedora is another of several coaches within the conference that is left with a defense that was decimated by graduation. Given he has shown the ability to recruit top notch talent, there is no reason to expect this year’s defense to be worse than last year’s. However, the team still needs to play better on this side of the ball or face the prospects of sitting out the post season.
With 17 returning starters back, including 10 on offense, this looks like a solid team on paper. However, we know how that sometimes turns out. This team underachieved last year and will be out to prove themselves this season. They have a manageable schedule and could get to 10 wins this season if some lady luck is on their side. We will call for an 8-9 win season.