North Carolina Tar Heels: Ranked 10th in CFP Rankings


The North Carolina Tar Heels continue to be held back by the cutthroat nature of the ACC Coastal Division

The North Carolina Tar Heels improved their position in the College Football Playoff Rankings last night. They moved into the top ten of the ratings at number 10. Going into the ACC Championship Game, the Tar Heels are still rated behind two loss teams like Stanford, Florida State, and Notre Dame.

This outcome is quite predictable given what we said at the beginning of the season when Duke was pitched as a dark horse playoff team. The rules that applied to Duke then still apply to North Carolina. Duke had a lone loss to Northwestern at the time, and it yet to play its conference schedule in any depth.

The key factor for why I did not believe that Duke would be a playoff team back when they were ranked was the ACC Coastal Division. My prediction was that the division would eat its own. In the end we now see that is exactly what happened.

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North Carolina went 8-0 against a tough divisional slate where no other team rose to fill the spot of worthy challenger. Duke and Pitt both had their moments to be the second ranked team from the Coastal and both got beat by Miami to drag down their records. Duke also proceeded to lose games to teams other than Carolina.

By comparison, look at another team that went 8-0 in its conference slate: Iowa. Iowa’s schedule includes the Big Ten West Division. The division includes ten win Northwestern and nine win Wisconsin. At face value that seems like a stronger group than the ACC Coastal. Yet every team in the West got to play a down Nebraska team, down Purdue team, down Illinois team, down Minnesota squad.

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The Coastal teams included two squads who had a non-bowl season, Virginia and Georgia Tech. Tech was ranked early in the season and then fell off the deep end while still beating Florida State. Yet they will not be attributed the same credit because Northwestern and Wisconsin managed to beat everyone not named Iowa, Northwestern, or Wisconsin.

How do North Carolina and Iowa stack up? They played one common opponent, Illinois. They both got the Illini on their home fields. Iowa won by nine. North Carolina won by thirty-four.

So the ACC Coastal will be the stumbling block outside of the usual factors (loss to South Carolina, 2 FCS schools on schedule). A playoff contender needs a team to push it and also be great. Affirmed had Alydar, Clemson had Florida State this year, and UNC has no one right now.

That said, the Tar Heels get their shot at Clemson on Saturday.