By R.L. Bynum

For the first time since 1997, North Carolina is an Associated Press preseason top 10 team with the Tar Heels coming in at No. 10 in the preseason poll that came out Monday.

It’s only the fourth time in program history that the Tar Heels have earned a preseason top 10 rank after starting the 1997 season at No. 7, the 1982 season at No. 5 and the 1958 season at No. 10. UNC is No. 9 in the preseason USA Today coaches poll that came out last week.

Jon Wilner of the San Jose Mercury News has Carolina the highest at No. 5 and Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman has UNC the lowest at No. 18. Eleven voters, including ESPN’s Rece Davis, voted UNC No. 8.

Ethan Joyce of the Winston-Salem Journal voted UNC the highest of the three North Carolina voters at No. 11. Lauren Brownlow of WRALSportsFan.com has the Tar Heels No. 12 and Jonas Pope of The News & Observer has UNC No. 14. Only three voters had the Tar Heels lower than they were on Pope’s ballot.

That 1997 team, Coach Mack Brown’s final season of his first stint in Chapel Hill, finished 11–1, beat Virginia Tech 42–3 in the Gator Bowl and set a school record for best final poll rank at No. 4. It is the last of the five times in program history that Carolina has appeared in the poll each week of a season (also 1993, 1981, 1980 and 1948).

The 1982 Tar Heels went 8–4, beat Texas 26–10 in the Sun Bowl and was No. 18 in the final poll.

The 1957 team went 6–4 and didn’t make a bowl after losing its last two games but was No. 17 in the final poll.

Carolina was No. 18 in the preseason poll last season, peaked at No. 5 before the loss at Florida State and finished the season at No. 18 after losing to Texas A&M in the Orange Bowl.

The Tar Heels open the season Friday, Sept. 3 at Virginia Tech (ESPN).

Alabama is No. 1, with Oklahoma No. 2, Clemson No. 3 and Ohio State No. 4. Notre Dame is just ahead of UNC at No. 9.

Miami is the only other ACC team in the poll at No. 14. N.C. State and Boston College both received votes.

AP preseason poll

Others receiving votes:
Oklahoma State 107, Ole Miss 106, TCU 40, Liberty 36, Auburn 32, North Carolina State 14, Michigan 12, Northwestern 8, Boise State 7, Nevada 7, Brigham Young 6, Ball State 6, Houston 5, Boston College 5, UCF 5, West Virginia 3, UAB 2, Army 2, UCLA 2

ACC pool photo

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