Tar Heels appear to be Clemson’s new challenger in the ACC

Tar Heels appear to be Clemson’s new challenger in the ACC


Tar Heels appear to be Clemson’s new challenger in the ACC


With it becoming clearer that there will be a college football season in 2020, why not look at which teams Clemson will have to contend with when it comes to the College Football Playoff.

The Tigers are aiming for their sixth consecutive CFP appearance, which will stand alone in the CFP era. To do that Clemson must first win a sixth consecutive ACC Championship, which would continue its record streak of outright ACC titles.

Clemson will obviously be the overwhelming choice to win the ACC this coming season. Pro Football Focus has the Tigers with a 99-percent chance to take home the league title again.

Right now, it does not appear there is anyone in the ACC’s Atlantic Division to prevent Clemson from getting back to the ACC Championship Game. Louisville will be improved and is perhaps the only real contender to challenge Clemson. However, Scott Satterfield’s program is not where it needs to be in year two, plus the Cardinals have to come to Death Valley where the Tigers have won 22 straight games and are 60-3 at home since 2011.

The Coastal Division could be a little more interesting. It appears to be a three-team race between North Carolina, Miami and Virginia Tech. However, the Tar Heels pose the biggest challenge to Clemson.

They return a lot of talent from last year’s seven-win team, including quarterback Sam Howell, the ACC’s Rookie of the Year.

Though he played in two less games, Howell threw for 3,641 yards as a true freshman, 24 yards shy of Trevor Lawrence. He led the ACC with 38 touchdown passes and threw just seven interceptions.

Howell also led the league with 280.1 yards per game through the air.

The Tar Heels, who are ranked 18th in Athlon’s Preseason rankings, lost all six of their games in 2019 by seven points or less. This year’s team could easily be a 10-win team in the second year of Mack Brown’s return to Chapel Hill.

Besides Howell, UNC brings back one of the country’s top receiving groups. One of those guys is perhaps the ACC’s top returning receiver in Dazz Newsome. He is considered an All-American candidate by some heading into 2020.

Newsome will be accompanied by Dyami Brown, who caused problems for the Tigers in last year’s game in Chapel Hill. Brown, who tied a school record with 12 touchdown receptions in 2019, caught a 40-yard touchdown on the Tigers last year.

In the backfield, the Tar Heels return both running backs in Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. Carter rushed for 99 yards on Clemson in last year’s game. Williams had 10 carries for 49 yards and scored a touchdown in Clemson’s 21-20 victory.

Defensively, North Carolina still has some work to do across the defensive front after losing Jason Strowbridge and Aaron Crawford. However, the back-seven should be better, especially at linebacker where they improved tremendously from the year before.

Though UNC’s program is not quite where Clemson is at, the Tar Heels did play the Tigers better than anyone in the 2019 regular season and had an opportunity to win the game at the end.

Brown is recruiting at a high level, as North Carolina appears to be the team in the future Clemson is going to have to contend with for the ACC Championship. And that could start this season.

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