The Tar Heels head to the Orange Bowl if No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 3 Clemson make the College Football Playoff
By R.L. Bynum
There is only one remaining hurdle between North Carolina and a trip to the program’s first major bowl since 1950 after the Tar Heels leapfrogged over Miami in the latest College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night.
UNC was No. 17 in the CFP rankings and the Hurricanes were No. 10 last week. After the Tar Heels’ 62–26 victory Saturday, the Tar Heels are No. 15 and Miami is No. 18.
The Orange Bowl, set for 8 p.m. Jan. 2 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., is required to take the available ACC team with the highest CFP rankings.
The Tar Heels’ hope is that after No. 2 Notre Dame and No. 3 Clemson play Saturday in the ACC championship game, both make the playoff. That would put UNC in the Orange Bowl.
Clemson could still make it into the CFP with a narrow loss to Notre Dame but a Tigers victory by a small margin would be the best-case scenario for both making the CFP field.
The final rankings will be released Sunday.
Many media outlets project that if UNC (ranked No. 16 in the AP poll) plays in the Orange Bowl, that Texas A&M (No. 5 in the AP poll and the CFP rankings) would be the opponent. The Aggies are coached by former Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher and its offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach is former Chapel Hill High School quarterback Darrell Dickey.
The last time Carolina made a major bowl, it was for the third time in four seasons, a 27–13 Cotton Bowl loss in 1950 to Rice. The Tar Heels also lost twice in the Sugar Bowl: in 1947 to Georgia 20–10 and in 1949 to Oklahoma 14–6.
Since 1950, UNC has only played in a January bowl three times: 1993 (a 21–17 Jan. 2 Peach Bowl win over Mississippi State), 1997 (a 20–13 Jan. 1 Gator Bowl victory over West Virginia) and 1998 (a 42–3 Jan. 1 Gator Bowl win over Virginia Tech.)