Addicted To Quack is looking forward to this first-ever football match between North Carolina and Oregon. We reached out to editor Brandon Anderson of our SB Nation sister site, Tar Heel Blog, to exchange questions and answers.
1) BW: I think it’s safe to say that most Oregon fans don’t know much about Tar Heels football, being far more familiar with your basketball programs. Mack Brown is back for his second stint as head coach. The ride since he left his first coaching tenure has been bumpy, especially so in the last 20 years. If you would, summarize the head coach carousel for us, and how important is it that Mack Brown is back at the helm of Tar Heels football?
BA: Since Mack left Carolina back in 1997, Carolina football went into quite the tailspin. Carl Torbush, John Bunting, and Butch Davis all finished their head coaching careers with the program with a sub-.500 record, and Larry Fedora had flashes of production before ultimately finishing his time with the Heels with a 45-43 record. Fedora’s time with the school was maybe the most damning, because he burned a lot of bridges with NC high schools, so top recruits within our own state opted to go to schools like Virginia Tech, Clemson, and even NC State. Mack Brown returning to the program did a few things: he repaired the damage Fedora did with recruiting, boosters were more willing to pour money into the program, and I think it overall gave Carolina football a renewed energy that they hadn’t had since he left. Now fans have started to become heavily invested in football all over again, but of course that means that expectations have become that much tougher to live up to. This regular season ended in bizarre fashion, so winning a game like the Holiday Bowl will go a long way in keeping fans on Brown’s side.
2) BW: Conference realignment has been on everyone’s lips since USC and UCLA announced in June that they were leaving the Pac-12. What’s the general mood at Chapel Hill and the ACC in general about conference realignment and both the threats and opportunities present if we’re faced with the presence of two or three super-conferences?
BA: The general mood in Chapel Hill is interesting, because for fans they have created every possible scenario they possibly can that involves UNC leaving the ACC. When it comes to the program itself, it’s been pretty quiet in that department, because the Grant of Rights that they signed when the ACC Network was formed is pretty airtight and prevents realignment of the member schools. The deal with ESPN expires in 2036, so it could be around that time that we see some movement.
As far as two or three super-conferences go, I personally would hate to see that. Now that the College Football Playoffs will be a 12-team event, I feel like there’s no longer a great reason from a football perspective to merge that many programs under three umbrellas. Of course the elephant in the room here is also revenue, so really I think if anything happens moving forward then that will be the biggest reason some teams leap over to the Big Ten or the SEC. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next 5-10 years.
3) BW: Every football team has its time-honored traditions. Because we in Oregon don’t know much, if anything, about the goings on in Chapel Hill, what are the meaningful traditions where Tar Heels football is concerned?
BA: When Mack Brown returned to UNC, he brought along a tradition from his time at Texas — after the team wins, the clock tower on campus is lit Carolina blue. It angered a good amount of NC State fans (which, it should be known that they really, really hate the program) because they’ve also been doing that on their campus since I think 1998. It’s been really cool, though, and obviously makes for some great photo ops after games.
4) BW: Like Oregon, North Carolina will have some roster depletion ahead of this Holiday Bowl matchup. Who are the players on offense that Ducks fans should be keeping an eye on? Who are the players on defense to be watching?
BA: Drake Maye will definitely be the offensive player to watch in this game. He’s going to be without some of his offensive weapons, but I still feel like he could end up having a good game. Things got really interesting with him near the end of the season, which I still think had something to do with some of the play-calling from our (former) offensive coordinator, Phil Longo. Maye will have an opportunity to end the season on a high note, so I expect him to leave it all out there on the field. Another offensive player worth keeping an eye on is Elijah Green, who has had some really good moments at the running back spot this season. He’ll probably split snaps with Omarion Hampton if I had to guess, but both running backs have been pretty good when they’re able to get going.
On defense, there will be quite a few players missing. Linebacker Cedrick Gray will be playing as far as I know, though, who leads the team in tackles. He hasn’t been great in the sacks department (though nobody has if I’m being honest), but you will see him involved in just about every play. From there things are pretty dire, as a lot of our secondary decided to either enter the NFL Draft or transfer. I have a feeling Oregon is going to tee off on the Heels the entire game and we will unfortunately just have to watch haha.
5) BW: Tell us how you think this game will play out and what your score prediction is.
BA: For this game, I think Oregon will win 42-21. While the Ducks will be missing players as well, I feel like the Heels weren’t a deep team going into the season, and the players that will not be playing in this one have made for a really bad situation. Also, while I hope that Drake Maye has a good game, it’s far from guaranteed given how the end of the season went. This may be the wake-up call that Mack Brown needs for how he approaches the 2023 season.
Thanks again for Brandon Anderson of Tar Heel Blog’s help in getting us to learn something about NC football; we appreciate the time invested in this. Best of luck to both sides - should be a really good game.