Tar Heels slide to No. 14 in AP poll, the second-largest poll drop in program history

Many questioned if North Carolina deserved the No. 5 ranking in The Associated Press Top 25 poll, even Coach Mack Brown. After a rally fell short Saturday night in Tallahassee, Fla., against unranked Florida State, the stay at that lofty spot was short.

North Carolina fell to No. 14, their lowest position since being ranked No. 18 in the preseason poll.

“As far as our top-five rating, we’re ahead of schedule as a team, our recruiting is going really well, we’re playing hard, but we weren’t the top five team in the country,” UNC coach Mack Brown said Monday. “Part of that was because the Big Ten wasn’t playing yet.”

At nine spots, it’s the second-largest AP poll drop in program history behind only a 10-spot fall in 1939 from No. 7 to No. 17 after a 13-3 defeat at No. 13 Duke.

“If you are the fifth-best team in the country and you want to stay there, play better than your opponent Saturday,” Brown said. “And I told him yesterday we obviously don’t deserve to stay up and the ratings because we didn’t play well.”

UNC fell from No. 7 to No. 13 in the coaches poll.

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Largest UNC drops in AP poll during season

10 — From No. 7 to No. 17 after a 13–3 loss at No. 13 Duke on Nov. 18, 1939
9 — From No. 5 to No. 14 after a 31–28 loss at Florida State on Saturday
8 — From No. 6 to No. 14 after a 41–7 loss at Oklahoma on Nov. 1, 1980
8 — From No. 9 to No. 17 after a 20–13 loss at No. 10 Tennessee on Nov. 2, 1946
7 — From No. 6 to No. 13 after a 20–17 loss at No. 24 Virginia on Nov. 16, 1996
7 — From No. 3 to No. 10 after 28–26 loss at No. 13 Maryland on Oct. 29, 1983
7 — From No. 6 to No. 13 after 13–7 loss at LSU on Oct. 22, 1949
6 — From No. 5 to No. 11 after 7–6 loss at Pittsburgh on Sept. 9, 1982
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N.C. State, which comes to Kenan Stadium on Saturday for a noon game on ESPN, debuted in the poll at No. 23 after its victory last week over Duke. The Tar Heels are early 18-point favorites.

“N.C. State’s done really well,” Brown said. “I think we’ve been overrated. I think they’ve been underrated.”

News & Observer correspondent Conor O’Neill, formerly of the Winston-Salem Journal, dropped UNC from No. 9 to No. 20 and he voted the Wolfpack No. 19..Jonas Pope IV, the N.C. State beat writer for The N&O, dropped the Tar Heels from No. 5 to No. 15 and he voted the Pack No. 20. Lauren Brownlow of WRALSportsfan.com dropped UNC from No. 8 to No. 16 and she has N.C. State No. 22.

Five voters ranked UNC the highest at No. 11. Ranking the Tar Heels the lowest at No. 23 was David Jablonski of the Dayton Daily News in Ohio.

AP Top 25

RankTeamPV RankConferencePoints
1Clemson (5-0)1ACC1,542 (54)
2Alabama (4-0)2SEC1,494 (8)
3Notre Dame (4-0)4ACC1,337
4Georgia (3-1)3SEC1,300
5Ohio State (0-0)6Big Ten1,223
6Oklahoma State (3-0)7Big 121,137
7Texas A&M (3-1)11SEC1,054
8Penn State (0-0)9Big Ten1,033
9Cincinnati (3-0)8American Athletic1,028
10Florida (2-1)10SEC942
11Miami (FL) (4-1)13ACC887
12Brigham Young (5-0)14IA Independents875
13Oregon (0-0)12Pac-12841
14North Carolina (3-1)5ACC677
14Wisconsin (0-0)16Big Ten677
16SMU (5-0)17American Athletic638
17Iowa State (3-1)20Big 12511
18Michigan (0-0)19Big Ten489
19Virginia Tech (3-1)23ACC411
20Kansas State (3-1)22Big 12399
21Minnesota (0-0)24Big Ten234
22Marshall (4-0)Conference USA227
23North Carolina State (4-1)ACC199
24USC (0-0)25Pac-12192
25Coastal Carolina (4-0)Sun Belt185

Others receiving votes:Memphis 76, Oklahoma 74, Tulsa 58, West Virginia 57, Auburn 48, Iowa 42, Louisiana-Lafayette 40, Liberty 37, Utah 36, UAB 30, Army 29, Arkansas 15, Air Force 14, Kentucky 12, Tennessee 11, Virginia 9, Arizona State 9, Washington 8, South Carolina 8, Indiana 4, Texas 1.

Point values in parentheses indicate the number of first-place votes.

Pool photo by Don Juan Moore

Tar Heels’ ‘publicity is ahead of where they are on the field,’ Brown says

By R.L. Bynum

Since the offseason hype started about North Carolina football, Mack Brown has been the rare coach who embraces the high expectations.

Even as the Tar Heels reached No. 5 in the AP poll for the first time since 1997, there still are skeptics about whether they are that good. You can count Brown in that group even as he appreciates the accolades that his team has earned.

He should know because he’s been there before. The last time UNC was No. 5 in the AP poll was in Brown’s final season of his first Chapel Hill stint in 1997. 

“We’ve still got a lot of things that we’ve got to fix. Our publicity is ahead of actually where we are on the field,” Brown said on Wednesday.

The Tar Heels (3–0, 3–0 ACC) are double-digit favorites for their 7:30 game Saturday night at Florida State (0–3, 1–3), their third consecutive game to air on ABC. UNC beat now No. 23 Virginia Tech 56–45 last Saturday.

“I don’t want to take away what they’ve accomplished,” he said. “It’s really hard to win any game. So, I’m really, really proud of them. And, therefore, the voters that are voting think they deserve it, so they deserve it. My point is, we’ve got to play better defense.”\

There are big differences between this year’s team and that 1997 team that ascended to No. 4 on Oct. 18 and finished 11–1. Those Tar Heels were experienced, deep on defense and coming off a 10–2 1996 season that included four consecutive weeks in the AP top 10, three of those in November.

“We had been good for a long time,” Brown said of that 1997 team. “We’re ahead of where I thought we would be at this time. But we don’t have enough experienced and key positions on defense.”

If UNC were to still be undefeated heading into November and still be ranked this high, that would impress Brown a lot more than doing it after only three games. He wonders why there are even rankings this early and applauds the College Football Playoff committee for waiting until Nov. 17 to release its first standings.

“I’m not saying we aren’t deserving. I’m saying let’s look at it at game eight,” said Brown, who calls polls at this time of year “more for hype and media than they are for real. That’s why I think the College Football Playoff started doing theirs late. And I’ve always felt like that’s when it matters.”

At No. 5 in the AP poll, North Carolina’s football program is in rare company with schools that routinely rise to that level such as No. 1 Clemson, No. 2 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia or No. 4 Notre Dame. Brown points out that those programs can beat any team on any given Saturday.

“People don’t consider us in that group yet,” Brown said. “We haven’t proved that we’re a team that’s ready to line up and win every game every week.”

UNC is committing the second-most penalties in the ACC at 9.7 per game and has the most penalty yards per game in the league at 91.3 yards. Carolina is last in the league in turnovers created and third-to-last in turnover margin per game at -1.

UNC’s Dazz Newsome draws an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty after scoring a touchdown Saturday against Virginia Tech.

Can Carolina win against a good team with the number of penalties they’ve committed each week and the inability to force turnovers? Brown would rather fix those issues than get the answer.

“My job is to make sure they understand if they beat Florida State, it stays,” Brown said of the high ranking. “You don’t win this weekend, life changes fast, and you got to head right back to N.C. State.”

He’s tried to keep his players from letting the No. 5 ranking give them a big head and lead them to forget how they became 3–0. Brown says there are no perfect teams out there, his team included.

“Let’s don’t get up in the clouds and start thinking this stuff’s easy,” Brown said of what he’s told his players. “You got here because of hard work and continue to do it. The higher that number is next to your name, then you become the hunted. Last year, nobody cared about us. Nobody said, ‘Boy, this bunch looks pretty good.’ We slipped up on a bunch of people. That’s not going to happen this year. So, the guys have to understand that.” 

Now is the time for the Tar Heels to prove to their skeptics, and their coach, that they belong in that elite company near the top of the AP poll.

Pool photos by Robert Willett

Tar Heels rise to No. 8 in AP football poll

By R.L. Bynum
@RL_Bynum

North Carolina’s 26-22 victory over Boston College may not have been overly impressive, but it was enough to move the Tar Heels up four spots to No. 8 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll released Sunday afternoon.

It’s the first time in the top 10 since UNC (2-0), which was No. 12 last week, was No. 10 heading into the 2015 bowl loss to Baylor. It’s the Tar Heels’ highest ranking since it was No. 8 before their loss to Clemson in the 2015 ACC championship game.

Carolina is part of history since this is the first week in poll history that four ACC teams have made AP’s top 10. Clemson remained at No. 1, Notre Dame is No. 5 and Miami is No. 7.

In the coaches poll, the Tar Heels are No. 9.

Three teams ahead of Carolina in last week’s poll lost: Auburn (No. 7 last week but No. 13 this week; the Tigers got blown out by No. 4 Georgia), Texas (No. 9 last week but No. 22 this week; the Longhorns fell 33-31 to TCU) and Central Florida (No. 11 last week but unranked this week after a 34-26 defeat against Tulsa). The team that was just behind UNC in last week’s poll also lost: Texas A&M (No. 13 last week but No. 21 this week after getting throttled by No. 2 Alabama 52-24).

Carolina is likely to fall as more AP voters start including Big Ten and Pac-12 teams in the coming weeks.

Ranking the Tar Heels the highest at No. 7 were Tom Green of the Alabama Media Group, Ryan Aber of The Oklahoman and Brooks Kubena of The Advocate. Michael Lev of the Arizona Daily Star ranked UNC the lowest at No. 25 and was the only voter ranking the Tar Heels lower than No. 15.

Two of the three North Carolina media members voting in the poll had UNC in the top 10: Conor O’Neill, the former Winston-Salem Journal writer now working as a correspondent for McClatchy’s North Carolina newspapers, put UNC No. 10 and Jonas Pope IV of The N&O voted Carolina No. 9. Lauren Brownlow of WRAL Sports Fan voted UNC No. 11.

At noon on Saturday at Kenan Stadium, UNC faces Virginia Tech (2-0). The Hokies debuted in the poll at No. 19.

AP Top 25

RANKTEAMPV RANKCONFERENCEPOINTS
1Clemson (3-0)1ACC1,536 (52)
2Alabama (2-0)2SEC1,488 (8)
3Georgia (2-0)4SEC1,380
4Florida (2-0)3SEC1,340
5Notre Dame (2-0)5ACC1,239
6Ohio State (0-0)6Big Ten1,165 (2)
7Miami (3-0)8ACC1,148
8North Carolina (2-0)12ACC944
9Penn State (0-0)10Big Ten935
10Oklahoma State (3-0)17Big 12919
11Cincinnati (3-0)15American Athletic895
12Oregon (0-0)14Pac-12786
13Auburn (1-1)7SEC731
14Tennessee (2-0)21SEC717
15Brigham Young (3-0)22IA Independents661
16Wisconsin (0-0)19Big Ten619
17LSU (1-1)20SEC478
18SMU (4-0)American Athletic393
19Virginia Tech (2-0)ACC391
20Michigan (0-0)23Big Ten350
21Texas A&M (1-1)13SEC330
22Texas (2-1)9Big 12228
23Louisiana-Lafayette (3-0)Sun Belt216
24Iowa State (2-1)Big 12215
25Minnesota (0-0)Big Ten145

Others receiving votes: Kansas State 142, USC 115, Mississippi State 112, UCF 112, TCU 97, Marshall 49, Tulsa 46, Utah 30, Iowa 26, Coastal Carolina 25, Oklahoma 20, North Carolina State 18, Ole Miss 18, UAB 15, Army 14, West Virginia 13, Memphis 12, Arkansas 11, Pittsburgh 7, Virginia 5, Arizona State 5, Washington 4, Air Force 4, Indiana 1.

Point values in parentheses indicate the number of first place votes.

ACC teams in bold.

Pool photo by John Quackenbos/Boston College Athletics

Idle Tar Heels fall one spot in the AP poll to No. 12, thanks to big wins by Miami and UCF, return of Big Ten teams

By R.L. Bynum
@RL_Bynum

North Carolina’s season has been on a two-week holding pattern and it appears to have cost the Tar Heels in the Associated Press Top 25 poll. Carolina fell one spot, checking in at No. 12 in the new poll released Sunday afternoon.

Expect UNC to keep dropping even with wins in the coming weeks as more voters start to consider Big Ten and Pac-12 schools. In the preseason poll, Ohio State was No. 3, Penn State was No. 7, Oregon was No. 9 and Wisconsin was No. 12.

The Buckeyes returned to the poll at No. 6 and Penn State was back at No. 10, contributing to the Tar Heels’ drop. Also a factor was Miami jumping from No. 12 to No. 8 after blowing out Florida State 52–10 and Central Florida going from No. 13 to No. 11 winning 51–28 at East Carolina

Without the ability to impress Associated Press poll voters on the field, North Carolina’s only chance of moving up in the poll was to have teams above the Tar Heels lose and hope that teams just below them weren’t impressive.

Two teams lost ahead of the Tar Heels and fell behind them: Oklahoma (No. 3 last week but No. 18 this week after a 38–35 home loss to unranked Kansas State) and reigning College Football Playoff champion LSU (No. 6 last week but No. 20 this week after a 44–34 home loss to Mississippi State).

Two other teams that were ahead of Carolina in last week’s poll escaped upset bids: Texas (No. 8 last week but No. 9 this week after a 63–56 overtime win over Texas Tech) and Texas A&M (No. 10 last week but dropped to No. 13 this week after a 17–12 victory over unranked Vanderbilt).

Carolina won its only game of the season 31–6 at home on Sept. 12 against Syracuse. The Orange is 1-2 after winning at home 37–20 against Georgia Tech on Saturday.

The Tar Heels are scheduled to finally play again at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Boston College (2–0), which rallied at home Saturday to beat Texas State 24–21. The game will air on ABC.

AP Top 25

RANKTEAMPV RANKCONFERENCEPOINTS
1Clemson (2-0)1ACC1,542 (55)
2Alabama (1-0)2SEC1,473 (3)
3Florida (1-0)5SEC1,324
4Georgia (1-0)4SEC1,310
5Notre Dame (2-0)7IA Independents1,231
6Ohio State (0-0)Big Ten1,169 (4)
7Auburn (1-0)8SEC1,133
8Miami (3-0)12ACC1,045
9Texas (2-0)8Big 12862
10Penn State (0-0)Big Ten840
11UCF (2-0)13American Athletic743
12North Carolina (1-0)11ACC734
13Texas A&M (1-0)10SEC705
14Oregon (0-0)Pac-12651
15Cincinnati (2-0)14American Athletic646
16Mississippi State (1-0)SEC590
17Oklahoma State (2-0)15Big 12555
18Oklahoma (1-1)3Big 12535
19Wisconsin (0-0)Big Ten510
20LSU (0-1)6SEC401
21Tennessee (1-0)16SEC377
22Brigham Young (2-0)18IA Independents295
23Michigan (0-0)Big Ten277
24Pittsburgh (3-0)21ACC248
25Memphis (1-0)17American Athletic196

Others receiving votes: Virginia Tech 195, Louisiana-Lafayette 126, * Minnesota 110, * USC 104, Kansas State 60, SMU 37, Marshall 31, Baylor 22, * Iowa 16, * Utah 14, Virginia 12, Arkansas State 11, UAB 5, Washington 4, Kentucky 4, Louisville 4, Army 3.

* Big Ten or Pac-12 schools that didn’t appear in last week’s poll.

Pool photo by Robert Willett