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

Streaking Tar Heels leap to No. 5 in AP poll

By R.L. Bynum
@RL_Bynum

Some wondered when North Carolina entered the top 10 in the Associated Press poll last week if the Tar Heels’ rank was a little high. After an impressive victory over Virginia Tech, there are fewer skeptics and more poll voters are taking notice.

UNC jumped three spots and is No. 5 in the latest AP poll released on Sunday after a 56–45 home victory Saturday over the Hokies, who fell two slots to No. 21. The Tar Heels have won their last six games, the longest streak since winning 11 in a row in 2015.

That’s the highest rank in the AP poll since UNC was No. 5 on Oct. 30 and Nov. 8 in 1997, the final season of Coach Mack Brown’s first coaching stint in Chapel Hill.

“It’s fun. It’s good for recruiting it’s good for our fans to do have some bragging rights and we haven’t been rated for a long time,” Brown said Monday. “Really, I’ve always told the players until the college football playoff polls come out probably be in November this year that that’s the first time I even look at the polls.”

The first College Football Playoff rankings don’t come out until Nov. 17. UNC is No. 6 in the coaches poll, up three spots. The Tar Heels are No. 9 in ESPN’s SP+ rankings.

The ACC has three teams in the top 5 for the first time in league history with No. 1 Clemson, No. 4 Notre Dame and No. 5 North Carolina.

Brown likes being in the top 10 “neighborhood” and earning their right to be there.

“We talked to the guys about how we need to buy a house in this neighborhood,” Brown said. “We haven’t been here much. We’ve been visiting the first couple of weeks in the top 10. But that’s like we want to be. But have we earned it yet? And that’s what we talked to them about each week.”

North Carolina coach Mack Brown has the Tar Heels in the top 5 again just like in the last season of his first coaching stint in Chapel Hill.

Two teams ahead of the Tar Heels in last week’s poll lost: Miami (was No. 7 and now No. 13 after a road loss to No. 1 Clemson) and Florida (No. 4 last week but now No. 10 after a 41-38 loss to Texas A&M).

Half the teams ahead of UNC in this week’s poll play each other with No. 3 Georgia visiting No. 2 Alabama. No. 1 Clemson plays at Georgia Tech and No. 4 Notre Dame is at home against Louisville.

All of the North Carolina voters in the panel put UNC in their top 10: Conor O’Neill, a correspondent for The News & Observer, had the Tar Heels No. 9, Jonas Pope IV of The N&O voted UNC No. 5 and Lauren Brownlow of WRALSportsfan.com put UNC at No. 8.

Voting UNC the highest at No. 4 was Brooks Kubena of The Advocate of Baton Rouge, La. Voting the Tar Heels the lowest at No. 12 were Nate Mink of the Syracuse Media Group and Theo Lawson of the Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash.

LSU became the first reigning national champion to fall out of the poll in nine years.

The Tar Heels are early 10-point favorites at Florida State on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in a game to be televised by ABC.

Associated Press Top 25

RankTeamPV RankConferencePoints
1Clemson (4-0)1ACC1,546 (59)
2Alabama (3-0)2SEC1,463 (2)
3Georgia (3-0)3SEC1,430 (1)
4Notre Dame (3-0)5ACC1,317
5North Carolina (3-0)8ACC1,190
6Ohio State (0-0)6Big Ten1,152
7Oklahoma State (3-0)10Big 121,069
8Cincinnati (3-0)11American Athletic971
9Penn State (0-0)9Big Ten970
10Florida (2-1)4SEC904
11Texas A&M (2-1)21SEC883
12Oregon (0-0)12Pac-12817
13Miami (3-1)7ACC790
14Auburn (2-1)13SEC703
15Brigham Young (4-0)15IA Independents693
16Wisconsin (0-0)16Big Ten633
17SMU (4-0)18American Athletic522
18Tennessee (2-1)14SEC463
19Michigan (0-0)20Big Ten417
20Iowa State (3-1)24Big 12405
21Louisiana-Lafayette (3-0)23Sun Belt342
22Kansas State (3-1)Big 12302
23Virginia Tech (2-1)19ACC199
24Minnesota (0-0)25Big Ten177
25USC (0-0)Pac-12124

Others receiving votes:Marshall 106, North Carolina State 87, Oklahoma 71, Tulsa 62, UCF 57, Boston College 43, Coastal Carolina 38, UAB 29, Utah 29, Iowa 28, West Virginia 25, Army 21, Memphis 12, Air Force 12, Ole Miss 6, Arizona State 6, Texas 5, Houston 5, LSU 5, Washington 4, Missouri 2, TCU 2, Virginia 2, Louisiana Tech 2, Indiana 1.

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

ACC teams in bold.

Pool photos by Robert Willett

Long passes, Newsome ignite UNC’s offense and Carter, Williams run by Virginia Tech

By R.L. Bynum
@RL_Bynum

Two elements that were missing in No. 8 North Carolina’s first two victories were big elements of the Tar Heels’ most impressive offensive game of the season.

One was Dazz Newsome, an impact receiver, who didn’t make that much of a difference through two games and the other was the lack of receptions on deep passes from sophomore quarterback Sam Howell.

The Tar Heels (3–0, 3–0 ACC) put a big checkmark on both of those Saturday in a 56–45 victory at Kenan Stadium over No. 19 Virginia Tech (2–1, 2–1). But it ultimately was Javonte Williams and Michael Carter complementing that passing success with a relentless rushing attack that helped hold off the Hokies.

“We saw the offense that we can be today when you can run the ball as well as we did today,” UNC coach Mack Brown said. “We know we can throw it. But anytime you can run the ball that well? They ran it really well, but we ran it better than they did. And that was not anticipated coming into the game. So, we’re proud of all the guys on offense that block well for both of our running backs.”

UNC piled up 656 total yards, the most against Virginia Tech since Alabama put up 833 in a 77–6 Hokies loss in 1973. The Tar Heels’ offensive line was good all game, bolstered by getting left guard Joshua Ezeudu back.

North Carolina’s Javonte Williams dashes for a 19-yard touchdown run.

Both UNC running backs scored two touchdowns, with Carter running for 214 yards and Williams for 169 yards, and hit triple-digit yards by midway through the third quarter. They were the first pair of Tar Heels to rush for 100 or more yards in a game since Elijah Hood (220) and T.J. Logan (100) did it against N.C. State in 2015. Carter’s total was the highest since Hood’s effort that day.

“I feel like me and Javonte, we just we feed off each other, literally,” Carter said, adding that when one of them gets a long run, the other talks about wanting to get the next one. “We are competing. It’s always friendly because you know we’re brothers at the end of the day, and we would never let something like a football game come between us.”

Carter all but put the game away with a 62-yard touchdown run with 8:49 left in the game.

“Those are two of the best backs in the country,” Brown said. “They’ve got balance. They’re fast. They’ve got the power and quickness to run inside and the speed to run outside, so they are two of our best weapons. And we know that.”

North Carolina’s Dazz Newsome flipped his statistics from the first two games with a big day Saturday against Virginia Tech.

After Newsome only caught three passes for 31 yards in the first games, he pulled down seven receptions for 69 yards and a 12-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass. He also somersaulted into the end zone on a 6-yard second-quarter touchdown run (above photo).


Dyami Brown not only pulled down the first deep pass receptions of the season, but he made up for two dropped passes with first-half touchdown receptions of 37 and 43 yards.

“I knew that was something that I haven’t gotten the past two weeks,” Dyami Brown said. “But this week, we locked in on it and said we need the deep ball or try to get them short to set up the deep ball.”

Howell did a better job of making quick decisions against Virginia Tech.

“Sam did a good job of being accurate and getting the ball out of his hands quickly,” Mack Brown said. “We did a better job of having some quick stuff ready where he could get it to the guys early. And then Virginia Tech had to come up and then it lets a speedster like Dyami go deep. We’ve got to get the ball more to Dazz because he’s such a good runner.”

UNC went 75 yards in 11 plays over 4:08 to produce a Williams touchdown on the game’s opening drive. The Tar Heels only needed five plays and 1:15 to go 83 yards for Howell’s first TD pass to Brown on the second drive. Williams scored on a 19-yard touchdown run on the third drive, which went 66 yards on seven plays in 2:25.

UNC quarterback Sam Howell completed 18 of 23 passes for three touchdowns and a 215.2 passer ratings while going without an interception.

Virginia Tech finally got its initial first down late in the first quarter on a drive that led to a 1-yard touchdown run by tight end James Mitchell in the first minute of the second quarter, capping an 11-play, 75-yard drive. After a 3-and-out, the Hokies drove 70 yards in 9 plays to an 8-yard touchdown run by Khalil Herbert to trim UNC’s lead to 21–14.

UNC finally answered with a scoring drive entirely on the ground of five plays and 75 yards that ended with Newsome’s TD run to make it 28–14.

A penalty led Virginia Tech to have a touchdown pass called back, and it had to settle for a 55-yard field goal from Brian Johnson on the first drive of the second half.

UNC came back with a 6-play, 75-yard drive in 2:41, capped by a 16-yard scoring run from Carter.

After Virginia Tech quarterback Hendon Hooker scored on a 5-yard touchdown run, the Hokies recovered an onside kick with 5:56 left in the third quarter. On third down, running back Herbert, who led the nation in rushing coming into the game at 155.5 yards per game, scampered 52 yards for a touchdown. 

After a UNC 3-and-out, Hooker connected with wide receiver Tayvion Robinson on a 33-yard touchdown pass to cut UNC’s lead to 42–37 in the final minute of the third quarter, but failed to convert a two-point try.

Newsome’s second touchdown, the 12-yard pass reception, pushed the lead to 49-37 with 12:37 left.

The Hokies cut the lead to 56–45 with 5:20 left on a 26-yard Hooker-to-Mitchell touchdown pass and a Hooker two-point conversion run.

The Tar Heels, tied for first place in the ACC with No. 1 Clemson, visit Florida State (0–3, 1–3) next Saturday at 7 p.m. in a game to be televised on ESPN.

No. 8 North Carolina 56, No. 19 Virginia Tech 45

Pool photos by Robert Willett

Tar Heels in NFL: Trubisky doesn’t play and Bears lose first game

By R.L. Bynum
@RL_Bynum

The big news for former Tar Heels in the NFL this week was what didn’t happen.

After the Chicago Bears went 3-0 in three starts for quarterback Mitch Trubisky, he didn’t start. And, with Nick Foles instead starting Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, the Bears didn’t win.

Trubisky had six touchdown passes on the season before being pulled in the third quarter of Chicago’s 30-26 victory over the Atlanta Falcons. Foles relieved Trubisky and threw three touchdown passes to rally the Bears.

In Sunday’s 19-11 loss to the Colts, Foles only had one touchdown pass to go with one interception.

In his three starts, Trubisky had an 87.4 passer rating. Foles’ rating for Sunday’s loss was 76.4. In the win over the Falcons, Trubisky’s rating was 71.8 and Foles’ rating was 95.2.

Who gets the start for Chicago at home Thursday against Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs? It figures to be Foles, but who knows?

There was good news for a Tar Heel last week when the Cleveland Browns signed wide receiver Ryan Switzer to their practice squad. The Pittsburgh Steelers released Switzer on Sept. 5.

Steelers tight end Eric Ebron didn’t get the chance to follow up on his big Week 3 game against the Houston Texans because their game with the Tennessee Titans was postponed until Week 7 on Oct. 25.

Not much happened on the field this week for former Tar Heels, highlighted by Tre Boston’s three tackles, one assist and a recovered fumble in the Carolina Panthers’ 31-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

Heading into that game, Tre Boston talked to the media about the success of him and the Panthers:

Tar Heels in the NFL

Howell gives UNC a different dimension on offense with his running threat, which he shows off in win at BC

By R.L. Bynum
@RL_Bynum

The feet on one Tar Heel are making a more significant impact on games than last season.

They would be the feet of Sam Howell, North Carolina’s sophomore quarterback, who couldn’t take his chances on running that much last season because of the Tar Heels’ depleted quarterback depth.

A stronger Howell is taking advantage of his chances to run, and that helped push No. 12 UNC to 2-0 with a 26–22 victory Saturday at Boston College. UNC held on after some costly mistakes made it closer.

“Definitely, when I see space, I want to take advantage of that,” Howell said. “I feel like a lot of teams don’t really account for me as a runner. So, there’s a lot of space out there. Whenever I can take advantage of the space they give me, I try to.” 

Trey Morrison helped put the game away when he returned an interception on a potential game-tying two-point conversion pass 99 yards to add two UNC points in the game’s final minute. 

“I was reading to the field side and I didn’t see anything come that way,” Morrison said. “I saw the quarterback go to the boundary. I saw the running back flare out, and I just saw the ball in the air, and I went to go get it.” 

BC quarterback Phil Jurkovec had just connected with C.J. Lewis on a 2-yard touchdown pass with 45 seconds left to pull within two points. Chazz Surratt sealed the win by recovering the ensuing onside kick.

After rushing for only 35 yards last season, Howell had five runs of six yards or more, including a 20-yard play, against BC. All but one of those were on third-down scrambles.

But it’s the threat of the run that gives opposing defenses something else to think about that is giving the Tar Heels’ offense another dimension. 

Opponents can’t just worry about covering UNC’s talented receivers. They have to deal with the possibility that Howell will make a run for it, as well as his ability to extend plays. As if trying to stop Javonte Williams and Michael Carter wasn’t enough to defend on the ground.

Carter ran for 121 yards and Williams added 57 and one touchdown as Carolina outrushed BC 176–40.

“I was probably more impressed with Sam making plays with his feet than ever before,” UNC coach Mack Brown said. “He did some of that in the bowl game, but he made some huge plays tonight with his feet that’s really going to help us.” 

There was no better example than late in the first half when he was scrambling to make a play. While straddling the line of scrimmage, he threw a short pass right in stride to Williams on a 41-yard scoring play.

“When I saw him scramble, I just tried to get open,” Williams said. “When I caught it, I was wide open.”

There were times when Howell’s desire to extend plays got him into trouble and he kept the ball for too long when he’d have been better advised to throw the ball away or take a sack. In one case early in the second half, Williams bailed him out by recovering Howell’s fumble after being pressured.

Howell threw two touchdown passes to give him 41 in only 15 games, already tied for the fifth-most career TD passes in Carolina program history with Mitch Trubisky (2014–16). Fourth on the list with 58 in 45 games over four seasons is T.J. Yates (2007–10).

Howell finished 14 of 26 for 225 yards and one interception for a 144.2 passer rating.

It was another big game for UNC’s defense, which has given up 28 points through two games, the fewest against FBS teams since allowing 27 in 2009 to Connecticut and East Carolina. Surratt led the way with eight tackles (all solo) and one sack in addition to breaking up a pass and hurrying the quarterback once. Don Chapman added seven tackles (also solo).

UNC scored on both first-quarter drives.

Howell’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Khafre Brown completed a 12-play, 83-yard, 4:13 drive on UNC’s first possession to put the Tar Heels ahead 7-0 with 7:35 left in the first quarter. The Tar Heels went 3-of-3 on third downs in that drive.

UNC was efficient again with a 6-play, 48-yard, 2:24 drive that produced a 1-yard touchdown run by Williams with 1:21 left in the first quarter.

After Morrison’s big hit kept B.C.’s Hunter Long from making a catch, the Eagles settled for a 35-yard Aaron Boumerhi field goal with 3:46 left in the opening quarter. After another drop by Long early in the second quarter, Boumerhi booted a 27-yard field goal. He added a 30-yard field goal on the final first-half play to cut UNC’s lead to 21-16.

Morrison said that it appeared that Long was wary of another big hit after that crushing first-quarter blow led to him getting medical attention.

“I do feel that hit kind of did that,” Morrison said. “Every time he was running across the middle, he was looking. He was looking more.”

Cornerback Brandon Sebastian intercepted a deflected Howell pass to give BC the ball at the UNC 5. Three plays later, Jurkovec threw a 5-yard scoring pass to running back David Bailey to cut the Tar Heels’ lead 14-13 with 11:35 left in the first half.

Graduate transfer Grayson Atkins’ 35-yard field goal padded UNC’s lead with 2:32 left in the third quarter. He missed wide left on a 47-yard attempt with 5:46 remaining in the game that might have eliminated the last-minute drama.

“I knew it was gonna be a hard-fought game,” Brown said. “We had chances that we could have pulled away. Give them credit. We didn’t. They’ve got good players too; that’s why we play these games. It’s the team that plays the best that day. And today we were better than they were.”

Carolina returns home next Saturday for a noon game against Virginia Tech (2–0), which won 38–31 at Duke (0–4) on Saturday.

No. 12 North Carolina 26, Boston College 22

Pool photos 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

Tar Heels in the NFL: Trubisky leads Bears to 2-0 start, is top performer so far this season

By R.L. Bynum
@RL_Bynum

As a Chicago Cubs fan, I follow a lot of Chicago Bears fans on Twitter for their Cubs tweets/coverage even though I’m not a Bears fan.

It’s an understatement to say that Bears fans and reporters on that beat have been highly critical of second-year quarterback Mitch Trubisky. Some of the tweets make me wish that his family stays off Twitter.

For the first three quarters of the Bears’ Week 1 victory over the Detroit Lions, there was constant chirping about the former UNC quarterback’s performance. In the fourth quarter of that come-from-behind 27–23 victory and through most of the Bears’ 17–13 home win over the New York Giants on Sunday, that strangely ended. There were even tweets giving him credit.

He’s got the Bears off to their first 2-0 start since 2013.

His performance has easily been the best in the NFL so far this season for former North Carolina players. Here’s a look at how the former Tar Heels are doing:

UNC up to No. 11 in AP poll, its highest ranking since rising to No. 8 in 2015

By R.L. Bynum
@rl_bynum

Even though North Carolina’s game with Charlotte got canceled, the 1-0 Tar Heels still moved up in the latest Associated Press Top 25 football poll, thanks to Oklahoma State’s struggles.

The Tar Heels went from No. 12 to No. 11, which is the program’s highest rank since it was No. 8 heading into the 2015 ACC championship-game loss to Clemson.

Oklahoma State won its opener over Tulsa 16-7, but the Cowboys’ struggles led AP voters to drop them from No. 11 to No. 15, allowing UNC to slide up one slot.

North Carolina's Javonte Williams (25) celebrates with teammates after scoring a touchdown to give the Tar Heels' a 24-6 lead in the fourth quarter against Syracuse on Saturday.

Another ACC team to jump in the poll was Miami, which moved from No. 17 to No. 12 after the Hurricanes’ 47-34 road victory over Louisville.

The Tar Heels obviously stand to drop a few notches once Big Ten schools are eligible for poll consideration when that conference’s season starts late next month.

Carolina may have to depend on the misfortune of others to move up more in the poll next week. The school said Sunday that it was unable to schedule a game for next Saturday. For now, the Tar Heels’ next game is on Oct. 3 at Boston College.

AP Top 25

RANKTEAMPV RANKCONFERENCEPOINTS
1Clemson (2-0)1ACC1,523 (59)
2Alabama (0-0)2SEC1,458 (1)
3Oklahoma (1-0)3Big 121,368
4Georgia (0-0)4SEC1,320
5Florida (0-0)5SEC1,239
6LSU (0-0)6SEC1,221 (1)
7Notre Dame (2-0)7ACC1,200
8Texas (1-0)9Big 121,037
8Auburn (0-0)8SEC1,037
10Texas A&M (0-0)10SEC972
11North Carolina (1-0)12ACC883
12Miami (FL) (2-0)17ACC816
13UCF (1-0)14American Athletic771
14Cincinnati (1-0)13American Athletic720
15Oklahoma State (1-0)11Big 12693
16Tennessee (0-0)15SEC529
17Memphis (1-0)16American Athletic510
18Brigham Young (1-0)21IA Independents405
19Louisiana-Lafayette (2-0)19Sun Belt374
20Virginia Tech (0-0)20ACC350
21Pittsburgh (2-0)25ACC315
22Army (2-0)22IA Independents296
23Kentucky (0-0)23SEC230
24Louisville (1-1)18ACC115
25Marshall (2-0)Conference USA108

Others receiving votes:Baylor 89, West Virginia 59, SMU 57, TCU 30, Virginia 30, Boston College 23, Arkansas State 20, Mississippi State 6, UAB 5, Texas Tech 5, Ole Miss 4, Appalachian State 3, UTSA 2, Troy 1, Coastal Carolina 1

UNC jumps to No. 12 in AP poll, thanks to Big Ten, Pac-12 teams

By R.L. Bynum
@RL_Bynum

In the strange world of 2020, North Carolina jumped six slots Sunday in the latest Associated Press college football poll. The rise has nothing to do with the Tar Heels’ performance in a 31-6 opening-game victory Saturday over Syracuse.

UNC, which was ranked No. 18 in the preseason poll, is No. 12 in the latest poll, thanks to six teams ahead of them that exited the poll because they aren’t playing (as of the moment) in 2020.

It’s the highest ranking for UNC since the Tar Heels were No. 10 after the 2015 regular season. In December of that season, Carolina was No. 8 before losing to Clemson in the ACC championship game.

The reality is that the Tar Heels’ rise is because of the six teams no longer in the poll.

The teams that were ahead of UNC in the preseason poll exited not because they lost but because they aren’t playing. The AP instructed poll voters to consider every school eligible for their preseason ballots regardless of whether they planned to play in 2020.

That meant that six schools ahead of Carolina in the preseason poll, all in either the Big Ten or the Pac-12, are now out of the poll: Ohio State (previously No. 2), Penn State (No. 7), Oregon (No. 9), Wisconsin (No. 12), Michigan (No. 16) and Southern Cal (No. 17).

The Tar Heels (1-0) face Charlotte (0-1) at 3:30 Saturday at Kenan Stadium in a game that regional sports networks will air. UNC is an early 28-point favorite.

AP college football poll

1Clemson (1-0)11,524 (60)
2Alabama (0-0)31,456
3Oklahoma (1-0)41,361
4Georgia (0-0)51,324
5Florida (0-0)81,237
6LSU (0-0)61,236 (1)
7Notre Dame (1-0)101,155
8Auburn (0-0)111,055
9Texas (1-0)141,033
10Texas A&M (0-0)13983
11Oklahoma State (0-0)15927
12North Carolina (1-0)18892
13Cincinnati (0-0)20647
14UCF (0-0)21632
15Tennessee (0-0)24528
16Memphis (1-0)495
17Miami (FL) (1-0)463
18Louisville (1-0)387
19Louisiana-Lafayette (1-0)377
20Virginia Tech (0-0)368
21Brigham Young (1-0)357
22Army (2-0)243
23Kentucky (0-0)238
24Appalachian State (1-0)237
25Pittsburgh (1-0)157

Others receiving votes: Baylor 146, West Virginia 81, Georgia Tech 69, TCU 49, Virginia 39, Arkansas State 33, SMU 32, Iowa State 14, Mississippi State 14, Boise State 6, South Florida 6, Ole Miss 5, Texas Tech 5, UAB 4, Missouri 3, Air Force 2, Florida State 2, Marshall 2, Houston 1.

Pool photo by Robert Willett

Brown says BLM statement not political but what’s right

By R.L. Bynum
@RL_Bynum

With plenty of high expectations surrounding No. 18 North Carolina, Mack Brown could have easily been like many other football coaches who barely recognize anything outside of their football bubble. 

Before he made a video supporting Black Lives Matter, even his players told him that it was going to upset some people. In a turbulent 2020, with nearly everything viewed through a political prism, he knew what some of the reactions might be.

That didn’t matter to him after he heard from his players and fellow coaches about the racism they all had endured.

“We have to be very careful that anything outside of football doesn’t disrupt our team,” Brown said. “But I felt very strongly about this cause. Some people think it’s political. I haven’t got a political bone in my body. It’s what’s right. I’m building the program on being fair and being consistent and doing what’s right. That’s all I’m asking. I’m asking everybody that feels differently to stop, take a deep breath and listen and try to learn from it and see if you would feel comfortable if that was your son.”

Brown knew that he had no idea how it felt to be Black and no clue what Black people deal with daily. So he had conversations with his Black assistant coaches and Black players to find out about that and figure out the proper message he should deliver publicly.

“These are guys that work together and they’re very comfortable with each other, and it was not the most comfortable conversation,” said Brown, who discussed it for 90 minutes with his staff. “A lot of things were brought up that were sensitive and hard. And I just felt like I needed to ask all of them to help me because I haven’t been the victim of racism. Help me represent them and help me say what they would like to say because of the voice that I have.”

Brown says it was painful to hear that some were afraid to get in their car and some parents are afraid for their sons to get into cars. Or some were afraid to go for runs.

“That’s why we need to make sure that we listen and learn,” Brown said. “And I’ve learned so much from these guys, these players, about what they put up with in their lives. And our bubble, again, is safe. And it’s a cool environment where we laugh and cut up with each other and we don’t see race. 

“And I’ve thought what an awful time in 2020 that we’re still talking about how somebody looks. And we’re better than that and we’re smarter than that,” he said. “And I felt like it was time for me to say that for our team. After the fact, I’m so glad that it represented our team and staff, and that they had so much input into it. And it was my words that wanted to say what they felt, and I feel the same way, obviously. I wouldn’t have said it unless I felt the same way.”

Brown also got some criticism when he said that, from a football perspective, it was better for his program during a pandemic with many students leaving campus. Some said his comments were against education, which he said wasn’t the case at all.

Brown said that, at UNC, they’ve tried to pattern themselves after the NBA bubble as much as possible. Fewer people on campus makes that easier. When there were in-person classes, the word he got from players is that going to class was safe. It was activity outside of class that was problematic. Anything that is of higher risk, such as inside gatherings, is to be avoided..

“What we’ve seen is that football has not caused the virus,” Brown said. “Because we haven’t had any positives out of football. It’s what you do outside of the bubble that affects you.”

Brown has preached wearing masks, staying away from people who don’t wear them and constantly hand-washing.

“We basically just told the players if you want to play, then go by the guidelines,” Brown said. “If you don’t care, go to your parties and have your social life but you’re not going to play. And that’s very simple and it’s not going to be the norm. It’s not going to be the same. I don’t go out of my house much. I come to the office around you guys, I go back and Sally and I are staying in a bubble as well so we’re all trying to make this thing work. And as of now, it is working.”

UNC opens against Syracuse at noon on Sept. 12 at Kenan Stadium without fans in the stands.