By R.L. Bynum
North Carolina’s football team, which moved up one spot to No. 21 in the AP Top 25, didn’t play this weekend but the Tar Heels’ potential path to the ACC championship game got a bit easier.
Louisville provided help by winning 24–10 at home Saturday against Pittsburgh, which gives the Tar Heels (6–1, 3–0 ACC) a two-game lead in the loss column over their closest competitors in the race to be the final ACC Coastal Division champion.
According to ESPN’s football power index (FPI), Carolina has an 85.4% chance of winning the division. UNC’s 8 p.m. Saturday home opponent Pittsburgh (4–3, 1–2) has the next-best chance at 6.9%.
There wasn’t much movement in the AP Top 25 with UNC among eight teams on open dates, but Wake Forest (6–1, 2–1) notably moved into the top 10 at a tie for No. 10 with USC after blowing out Boston College 43–16 and LSU going from unranked to No. 18 after beating Ole Miss (which fell eight spots to No. 15) 42–3.
N.C. State also didn’t play but fell one spot to No. 24. UNC also moved up one spot to No. 21 in the coaches poll.
Joe Giglio of WCMC (99.9 The Fan) was among three voters to rank UNC the highest at No. 16, along with Chris Murray of Nevada Sports Net and Stephen Hargis of the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. Giglio has Wake Forest No. 10 and didn’t rank N.C. State.
Steve Wiseman, the Duke beat reporter for The News & Observer, ranked Wake Forest No. 8, UNC No. 21 and N.C. State No. 25. David Thompson, the N.C. State beat writer for the Fayetteville Observer and the USA Today Network, has the Deacs No. 11, the Heels No. 20 and the Wolfpack No. 22.
Seven AP voters didn’t rank UNC, including former Herald-Sun sportswriter Mike Berardino of the South Bend Tribune.
Duke (5–3, 2–2), which won at Miami (3–4, 1–2) 45–21, is tied for second place with Georgia Tech (3–3, 2–2), which lost at home to Virginia 16–9 on Thursday.
If Carolina can win its final three games against Coastal Division rivals — Saturday against Pittsburgh, at Virginia on Nov. 5 and at home against Georgia Tech on Nov. 19 — the Tar Heels could lose at Wake Forest on Nov. 12 and at home vs. N.C. State on Nov. 25 and still advance to the ACC championship game because they would have the tiebreaker against the rest of the division.
This is the last season of ACC divisions, and the Coastal champion appears likely to face Clemson in the ACC championship game at 8 p.m. on Dec. 3 in Charlotte (ABC). ESPN FPI gives the Tigers an 82.3% chance of winning the league title and Carolina the next-highest chance at 15.9%.
The Tigers (8–0, 6–0) are the only other team unbeaten in the league after giving Syracuse (6–1, 3–1) its first loss, 27–21 at Clemson on Saturday.
Carolina has lost both games against Pittsburgh since Coach Mack Brown returned to UNC with both games at Pittsburgh, 34–27 in 2019 and 30–23 last season. The Tar Heels, who lead the all-time series 10–5, had won six in a row before that.
AP Top 25
|1||Georgia (7-0)||—||1,530 (31)|
|2||Ohio State (7-0)||—||1,513 (18)|
|3||Tennessee (7-0)||—||1,476 (13)|
|5||Clemson (8-0)||—||1,318 (1)|
|9||Oklahoma State (6-1)||+2||1,064|
|10||Wake Forest (6-1)||+3||927|
|13||Penn State (6-1)||+3||783|
|15||Ole Miss (7-1)||-8||744|
|21||North Carolina (6-1)||+1||278|
|22||Kansas State (5-2)||-5||272|
|24||N.C. State (5-2)||-1||169|
|25||South Carolina (5-2)||—||113|
Others receiving votes: Texas 38, Liberty 35, Oregon State 25, Mississippi State 10, Maryland 8, Troy 3, UTSA 1, Arkansas 1, Washington 1, Florida State 1. (Point values in parentheses indicate the number of first-place votes).
|X-No. 13 North Carolina||6||0||9||1|
|X-No. 9 Clemson||7||0||9||1|
|No. 20 Florida State||5||3||7||3|
X-Clinched division title
North Carolina 36, Wake Forest 34
Duke 24, Virginia Tech 7
Pittsburgh 37, Virginia 7
Miami 35, Georgia Tech 14
Clemson 31, Louisville 16
Boston College 21, N.C. State 20
Florida State 38, Syracuse 3
Louisiana at Florida State, noon, ESPN3
Virginia Tech at Liberty, noon, ESPN+
Duke at Pittsburgh, noon, ACC Network
Boston College at Notre Dame, 2:30, NBC
Miami at Clemson, 3:30, ESPN
N.C. State at Louisville, 3:30, ACC Network
Coastal Carolina at Virginia, 3:30, ESPN3
Georgia Tech at North Carolina, 5:30, ESPN2
Syracuse at Wake Forest, 8 p.m., ACC Network
|27||Saturday||W, 56–24||Home||Florida A&M||1–0|
|3||Saturday||W, 63–61||Boone||Appalachian State||2–0|
|10||Saturday||W, 35–28||Atlanta||Georgia State||3–0|
|24||Saturday||L, 45–32||Home||No. 19 |
|1||Saturday||W, 41–10||Home||Virginia Tech||4–1, 1–0 ACC|
|8||Saturday||W, 27–24||Miami |
|Miami||5–1, 2–0 ACC|
|15||Saturday||W, 38–35||Durham||Duke||6–1, 3–0 ACC|
|29||Saturday||W, 42–24||Home||Pittsburgh||7–1, 4–0 ACC|
|5||Saturday||W, 31–28||Charlottesville||Virginia||8–1, 5–0 ACC|
|12||Saturday||W, 36–34||Winston-Salem||Wake Forest||9–1, 6–0 ACC|
|19||Saturday||L, 21–17||Home||Georgia Tech||9–2, 6–1 ACC|
|25||Friday||L, 30–27, |
|Home||N.C. State||9–3, 6–2 ACC|
|3||Saturday||8 p.m.||Charlotte||No. 10 Clemson||ABC|
Photo via @UNCFootball