By R.L. Bynum
Who said the polls are logical? North Carolina won two consecutive games impressively and got left out of the AP football poll a week ago. The Tar Heels haven’t played since then but are back in the poll after a three-week absence at No. 25.
In the coaches’ poll, UNC moved up one spot to No. 24.
This is the ninth AP poll this season to include UNC, the most since 1997 — the last season of Coach Mack Brown’s first stint in Chapel Hill — when the Tar Heels were in all 18 polls. That season, Carolina peaked at No. 4 (for two weeks in October). This season, the highest rank was No. 5 on Oct. 11.
Carolina (6–2, 6–2 ACC) can thank N.C. State for clearing a spot. The Wolfpack’s Vi Jones blocked a potential game-winning field-goal attempt to preserve a 15–14 win over Liberty (8–1), which was No. 21 a week ago but is now unranked.
Ranking UNC the highest at No. 18 is Eric Hansen of the South Bend Tribune. Four voters put the Tar Heels at No. 19: Aaron McMann of MLive in Ann Arbor, Mich., Colten Bartholomew of the Wisconsin State Journal in Madison, Wisc., Matt Baker of the Tampa Bay Times and Soren Petro of WHB radio in Leawood, Kansas.
Lauren Brownlow of WRALSportsFan.com was the only one of the three North Carolina voters in the AP poll to put the Tar Heels on their ballot and she ranked them No. 24. Jonas Pope IV of The News & Observer and Conor O’Neill, a correspondent for the North Carolina McClatchy papers, both left UNC off their ballots. Thirty-one voters didn’t rank Carolina.
Staying in the poll when it comes out again next Sunday probably will require a win or a close loss Friday at 3:30 in Kenan Stadium against No. 2 and ACC-leading Notre Dame (8–0, 7–0). The Irish are an early 4-point favorite. The over/under is 64.5 (bet the over).
It will be the highest-ranked Irish team to face the Tar Heels since No. 6 Notre Dame beat Carolina 50-43 in 2014.
The Tar Heels have two receivers with more yards per game than the best Notre Dame receiver. Dyami Brown (above photo) has 103.6 yards per game and eight total touchdowns, leading the ACC in both, and Dazz Newsome is averaging 56.9 yards per game. Javon McKinley leads the Irish with 51.8 yards per game and hasn’t caught a touchdown pass.
Quarterback Sam Howell leads the league with 328.9 yards per game and 23 touchdown passes. Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book has thrown 11 touchdown passes and is averaging 227.3 per game.
The Tar Heels’ Javonte Williams (an ACC-leading 108.5 per game) and Michael Carter (100.8) are both are ahead of Irish running back Kyren Williams (97.1). Javonte Williams has 15 rushing touchdowns, Carter four and Kyren Williams 10.
AP Top 25
Pool photo by Robert Willett