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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC football to face FSU For the first time since upset loss last season

Junior quarterback Sam Howell (7) prepares to throw the ball at the game against Duke on Oct. 2 at Kenan Stadium. UNC won 38-7.

Fresh off a 38-7 win over the rival Duke Blue Devils last weekend, the North Carolina football team has a tough ACC matchup this Saturday against the Florida State Seminoles.

The Seminoles' 31-28 upset over UNC last season is proof that outcomes are unforeseeable in college football. And Saturday’s game is not any different, considering the unpredictability of the UNC football team this season. 

FSU will face UNC after barely pulling out its first win of the season against Syracuse last weekend. The Seminoles have played against some stiff competition, including two top-25 teams so far.

And with unexpected losses to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, a UNC win against Florida State is not guaranteed.

Although the Tar Heels readily defeated Virginia 59-39, the next week they lost to Georgia Tech 45-22. During that game, junior quarterback Sam Howell fumbled the ball three times and was sacked eight times — evidence of the disorganization of the Tar Heel offensive line.

Is the Duke win enough to boost North Carolina’s confidence for the remainder of the season? The Tar Heel defense improved its communication, and the offense built chemistry and pace during the Duke game. The performance showed that UNC always had the potential to be a great team — they just needed time to develop momentum and come together as a cohesive unit. 

Meanwhile, Florida State has endured a rough run so far. Even with the addition of head coach Mike Norvell last season, the team cannot seem to win games consistently in his second campaign.

In the Seminoles’ lone away game of the year against Wake Forest, they turned the ball over six times. Florida State’s weak secondary lineup will potentially allow Howell and the Tar Heel receiving corps to make big plays.

Regardless, the Tar Heels will have to step up this weekend in memory of last season’s FSU game. The devastating upset to the Seminoles ended the Tar Heels’ undefeated record and their dreams of finishing the season as a top-five team.

A trajectory of errors by UNC early in the game resulted in FSU blocking two punts and notching a pick-six. Spectacular plays from the defense kept UNC off the board entirely until the second quarter.

Characterized last season as a "fourth-quarter team," the Tar Heels strived to make up for lost time and come back in the end. A promising drive across midfield provided the chance for a field goal to tie. Three dropped passes by the offense sealed the fate for the Tar Heels, though, losing to FSU by just three points.

This time, the Tar Heels are playing at home in Kenan Stadium. UNC has won all of its home games this season, and fans and players alike will hope for nothing less from Saturday’s game.

It is essential for UNC’s offensive line to step up to protect against Florida’s defensive line. If Howell continues to get hit, it will be much harder for UNC to pull out a crucial win. 

FSU’s starting quarterback Jordan Travis has a strong running game, so UNC’s defense will need to contend with his rushing style, especially after mobile quarterbacks like Virginia's Brennan Armstrong and Georgia Tech's Jeff Sims had such strong performances against the Tar Heels.

If anything has been learned from last season, it is not to underestimate the determination of Florida State. Based on the outcomes of the 2021 season so far, a UNC win against FSU is the most likely result.

But upsets are always a possibility, so the Tar Heels shouldn't relax — not even for a moment.

@dthsports |

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