If you count “Week Zero,” we’re already two weeks into the college football season.
Doesn’t it seem like just yesterday, we were talking about how the first game was just days away?
There’s a full season of games ahead – and we haven’t even gotten into the thick of conference play. Week 2 matchups, which officially kick off tonight with Louisville hosting Murray State, are highlighted by the Alabama-Texas rematch at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9.
UNC played in Charlotte Week 1 against South Carolina, but now get to return home and entertain the Tar Heel faithful on Saturday against App State. The Tar Heels racked up 168 rushing yards and generated nine sacks – more than half of their 2022 total – against the Gamecocks. Carolina was just 3-3 in Kenan Stadium last year, but 11-2 the previous two seasons combined.
App State beat Gardner-Webb by three touchdowns in Boone last weekend, but struggled to do so, requiring a second-half comeback. Joey Aguilar came off the bench to throw four touchdowns in relief of starting quarterback Ryan Burger, who exited the game with a hand injury.
Carolina beat the Mountaineers in a 63-61 shootout on the field at Kidd-Brewer Stadium last year, with the two teams combining for 62 fourth-quarter points.
Will we see another high-scoring clash in Chapel Hill, a one-sided affair or something else on Saturday?
How much better Drake Maye will play
Throwing for two touchdowns and nearly 270 yards is a pretty solid game for a quarterback, right?
Yes, but when you have the talent that UNC quarterback Drake Maye does, you’re expected to do even more.
Maye completed his first ten passes in the 2-touchdown victory over South Carolina, signifying he was going to have another Heisman Trophy-worthy game.
The only downside to Maye’s game Saturday night, though, was that he also threw two interceptions. These could simply be from rust or first-game jitters – no one’s expected to be solid in Game One.
Maye hit the 300-yard marker seven times in 2022, including a 448-yard whopper in the ACC Coastal Division-clinching victory over Wake Forest.
Against an App State defense that gave up nearly 400 yards to an FCS opponent in Week 1, expect Maye and the Tar Heel offense to deal even greater damage on Saturday.
Will Joey Aguilar enjoy a repeat performance?
All the Week 1 hype in App State’s quarterback room was around Ryan Burger, the redshirt freshman from Myrtle Beach, S.C. who won the starting job with an impressive offseason.
After Week 1, that hype shifted to junior Joey Aguilar, who was nearly perfect with 174 yards and four touchdowns, in coming off the bench to lead the Mountaineers to a comeback, 45-24 victory over Gardner-Webb in Boone.
If Aguilar plays like he did last weekend, UNC’s defense could be in for some major trouble. How Aguilar plays against the Tar Heels, who generated nine sacks against South Carolina, could determines if he unseats the injured Burger for the starting job.
Give me more, give me Paysour
No Devontez Walker or Nate McCollum for the season-opener? Sounds like that could’ve been an issue for Maye and the UNC passing game.
Not in the slightest bit.
Without his top two receivers, Maye locked in on sophomore Kobe Paysour, who caught seven passed for 66 yards and the eventual, game-winning touchdown that put Carolina ahead 17-14 in the second quarter.
Paysour was only one of two UNC wide receivers to catch multiple passes, as junior J.J. Jones hauled in two receptions for 24 yards.
App State’s defense is not nearly at the level of South Carolina’s, so look for Maye to keep tossing Paysour touchdowns on Saturday.
British Brooks will have another huge game
It’s to be expected that when a guy doesn’t play football for two years, he’ll be a little rusty in his return to game action.
UNC running back British Brooks said, “hold my Gatorade.”
While he never found the end zone, Brooks carried the rock 15 times and led all rushers with 103 yards. Brooks was part of a Tar Heel ground game that torched the South Carolina defense for 168 yards, including 37 yards and two scores from teammate Omarion Hampton.
Gardner-Webb gained 146 rushing yards against App State in Week 1. An even-more talented UNC running back group, led by Brooks, should perform even better on Saturday.
Sacking away – will UNC defense follow up Week 1 performance?
No one – not even Tar Heel fans – saw last Saturday’s defensive performance coming.
The defensive line was a unit that struggled in 2022, generating just 17 sacks.
Last weekend, UNC sacked South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler nine – yes, you read that right – nine times. Kaimon Rucker and Amari Gainer, the Florida State transfer, each nabbed Rattler twice.
The Tar Heels might have a tougher time getting to Aguilar on Saturday, as he wasn’t sacked once in App State’s opening week triumph.
If UNC can at least generate pressure and force Aguilar into bad decisions, though, it’ll be just fine.