It’s finally here. After months of waiting, the UNC football program returns to the field on Saturday night for Week 0 as they host Floria A&M to begin the season. This will be the first time UNC has played in Week 0 as they get set to host the Rattlers.
For Mack Brown and his Tar Heels, they enter this season with lower expectations compared to last season. The Tar Heels aren’t a preseason Top 10 team, they have a new quarterback in Drake Maye, questions on the offensive line, and a new defensive coordinator in Gene Chizik.
However, that might benefit them, especially taking the weight off their shoulders.
Saturday’s game against the Rattlers is one that the Tar Heels should win and it’s important that they get off to a good start. Following this game, UNC has road games at Appalachian State and Georgia State before hosting Notre Dame in Week 3. But they can’t overlook the Rattlers and fall behind early.
Florida A&M is coming off a season in which they dropped their season opener to Jackson State before winning seven in a row. They earned a trip to the FCS playoffs but were dropped by Southeastern Louisiana.
The Rattlers have some weapons on offense. Quarterback Rasean McKay returns after throwing 22 touchdown passes a year ago and has All-SWAC preseason selection Xavier Smith to throw too.
In the backfield, Terrell Jennings and Pitt transfer A.J. Davis will lead the way. It should be a good early test for UNC’s defense on Saturday night.
Key to victory for UNC
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA – DECEMBER 30: Josh Downs #11 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts following a reception during the first half of the Duke’s Mayo Bowl against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Bank of America Stadium on December 30, 2021 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Getting off to a fast start and avoiding mistakes will be key for the Tar Heels in this one. As heavy favorites, UNC cannot let a team like Florida A&M hang around in the game as it would give them more belief that they can win this game.
If the Tar Heels can jump out to a big lead early, it could go a long way in their chances to win this game. Get the crowd into it, go up a few scores and play your game.
Something to watch
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) looks to pass against Wofford during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
The obvious one here is quarterback Drake Maye.
This will be his first game after being named the starting quarterback this week. How will Maye play? Can he come out and get off to a strong start this season?
The one thing I’d watch is the state of the quarterback “battle” that could be ongoing. If Maye struggles, how early will Brown and Phil Longo try to turn to Jacolby Criswell. But it’s also important for Maye to build confidence to begin the year.
What you need to know
Dec 30, 2021; Charlotte, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Josh Downs (11) catches the ball in the second quarter during the 2021 Duke’s Mayo Bowl at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
WHAT? Florida A&M (0-0) AT North Carolina (0-0)
WHEN? Saturday, August 27th, 8:15 p.m. ET
WHERE? Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
TV? ACC Network
RADIO? Tar Heels Sports Network
WEATHER? Partly cloudy, 72 degrees and a chance of thunderstorms
LINE? UNC -34.5
LAST MEETING? First meeting
ALL-TIME SERIES? First meeting
PREDICTION? UNC 48, Florida A&M 20