There’s no better place to be this weekend than Henry Stadium.
After losing its season opener to No. 8 Michigan on a last-second stunner, the No. 3 Tar Heels (6-2, 1-1 ACC) have won six of their last seven games, including a 3-1 victory over No. 19 Maine this past Sunday.
But tonight, UNC will host No. 1 Syracuse (7-0, 2-0 ACC) in a rematch of last season’s national championship game, won 4-2 by the Orange. And two days later, No. 2 Duke (8-0, 2-0 ACC) comes to Chapel Hill looking to bury its rival before the two meet a month later in Durham.
With the season nearing its halfway point, these two games are pivotal for North Carolina.
If the Tar Heels can sweep the top teams in the nation, they’ll certainly become the favorites to take home a title this season. But if UNC drops one or both of these matchups, the team could fall too far behind in the chase for the conference crown.
Men’s soccer vs. Boston College (tonight at 7 p.m.)
The No. 9 men’s soccer team is a mystery.
After defeating ACC rival Clemson — then-ranked second in the nation — two weeks ago, the Tar Heels climbed to No. 2 in the rankings. But four days later, UNC (6-1, 2-0 ACC) dropped to unranked East Tennessee State in extra time for its first loss of the season.
Twin brothers Tucker and Walker Hume have stepped up for North Carolina this season, as has standout goalkeeper James Pyle. But inconsistency has plagued the Tar Heels, who are hoping to replicate their dominance from the first two games of the year.
Tonight, North Carolina faces its third conference opponent of the season in Boston College (5-2, 1-1 ACC), which is ranked just outside of the top 25. But it only gets tougher from here.
In their final five ACC games, the Tar Heels travel to face No. 2 Syracuse and No. 3 Notre Dame and play at home against No. 16 Virginia and No. 19 Virginia Tech. The only unranked conference foe? Duke, which hosts UNC in three weeks.
A win tonight at Fetzer Field would be crucial before North Carolina the toughest stretch of its season.
Football vs. Pittsburgh (Saturday at 3:30 p.m.)
If North Carolina is serious about winning the ACC Coastal Division, Saturday’s game is a must-win affair.
After dropping its season opener to No. 12 Georgia on Sept. 3, the Tar Heels (2-1) have walloped their previous two opponents behind the resurgent play of quarterback Mitch Trubisky in his first year as a starter.
But the rush defense has remained a major concern. UNC has given up 680 yards on the ground through the first three games after an abysmal performance against the run a season ago.
On Saturday, North Carolina opens conference play in Kenan Stadium against Pittsburgh (2-1) in a rematch of last season’s 26-19 win. But this year, the Tar Heels must find a way to stop star running back James Conner — who ranks fifth in the ACC in rushing yards after leading the conference in 2014.
Two years ago, Conner gashed UNC on the ground for 220 yards and four touchdowns in a thrilling 40-35 UNC win. But if it can neutralize the redshirt junior phenom Saturday, North Carolina could start its ACC slate with confidence before its daunting road trip against No. 13 Florida State next weekend.