With four games remaining, the North Carolina football team is entering the home stretch of the regular season.
In a player press conference on Tuesday evening, graduate jack Chris Collins was asked if he would be tuned in to the first reveal of the College Football Playoff rankings later that night. As a self-proclaimed “college football fan in general,” he said would be watching, which likely made the eventual No. 17 ranking that much more satisfying.
“To still be a contender in November? That’s something I’ve been dreaming of,” Collins said.
Entering the new month, the Tar Heels face challenges beyond just the added pressure of being a top-20 team. In the team's 42-24 win over Pitt last Saturday, three starting players — graduate jack Noah Taylor, junior defensive end Desmond Evans and sophomore running back Caleb Hood — suffered season-ending injuries that will force the team to close out the year with a revamped lineup.
The loss of these players may change the team on the field, but in the Tar Heels' upcoming game against Virginia, they will head to Charlottesville with complete faith in the next men up.
Junior defensive lineman Myles Murphy, who had his own struggle with an ankle injury against Georgia State, believes first-year Travis Shaw and sophomore Jacolbe Cowan can make an impact on the defensive line. Murphy specifically commended Shaw’s improvement since the beginning of the season and mentioned that offensive linemen “can’t move him.”
With the Tar Heels adapting to these changes, head coach Mack Brown wants the team to stay focused and has told them to stay off social media. Despite this new adjustment, the players understand his reasoning.
“During this time of the season, people don’t really lock in, people tire,” Murphy said.
Such a mindset could be especially destructive this week with UNC on the road, where it has a pattern of narrowly escaping with close wins. To build dominance, the team will look to establish its mostly non-existent running game, which will be even more difficult with Hood's absence.