When Mack Brown took the podium at the 2023 ACC Kickoff in Charlotte, he made one thing clear about UNC’s schedule:
It will be physical.
Brown and the Tar Heels will return to Charlotte for their season opener to play South Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Classic on Saturday, Sept. 2.
The preseason No. 21 Tar Heels will be tested from the jump.
Physical teams with a knack for running the ball — just like South Carolina — gave UNC trouble in 2022. The Tar Heels finished in the bottom three in the ACC in rushing defense last season. Now, in 2023, the Tar Heels will be challenged on the ground from day one.
South Carolina will look to run the ball, and so will Appalachian State, who UNC will face the following week on Sept. 9. This theme of defending on the ground will continue throughout the first third of the season, with games against Minnesota and then Pittsburgh.
“It will be a great four games to start out to see if we've improved like we think we have on defense,” Brown said at ACC Kickoff.
Not only are South Carolina and App State physical teams, but they are also regional rivals. Along with those matchups will come electric gameday atmospheres.
Brown expects the game with the Mountaineers to be a nail-biter, just as last season’s 63-61 victory and 2019’s 34-31 loss were.