Undoubtedly, every single game is extremely important in a college football season; you only get 12 games, so every game impacts a season. However, some games mean more than others. Whether it be a local rivalry, top 25 matchup, or anything in between, fans and players alike all get a little more pumped for these games. Here are my five most important games for the Tar Heels in 2017:
1.NC State; November 25
The UNC-NCSU rivalry game is highly anticipated every year; the two best programs in the state facing off for a year of bragging rights. However, this season’s matchup might even mean a little more. NC State has been listed by several media outlets as a darkhorse for the fourth CFB playoff spot. While this may seem like a longshot, State will certainly have a season to remember, so Carolina would love to leave end the wolfpack’s regular season on a sour note. Furthermore head coach Larry Fedora expects UNC to be competing for the ACC coastal division title, so this final game of the season could be a pivotal game in the coastal race. Potentially, there will be a lot more on the line in this game than bragging rights.
2. Miami; October 28
The Hurricanes are the media pre-season favorite to win the ACC coastal division, so this game will likely be very important if Fedora expects to fulfill his expectations. Currently these two teams are tied with nine wins apiece in the all-time series, so the winner of this game will be able to claim supremacy over the other. To add on to things, Carolina has defeated the Canes the past two seasons. In 2015 the Tar Heels embarrassed Miami by a score of 59-21, and the Heels were able to hold off a second half comeback in their 20-13 win over the Canes in 2016. Miami is definitely going to come into this game with payback on their mind, and the Tar Heels will surely ready for a great game.
3. Virginia Tech; October 21
The Tar Heels and the Hokies are the past two ACC coastal champions, and they have both had to go through each other to get there. In 2015 the Tar Heels pulled off a massive 30-27 overtime win to clinch the coastal division championship. 2016 was different story. The Hokies dominated the Heels in 34-3 beatdown whilst enduring a hurricane (not Miami). Due to the way this matchup has unraveled the past two years, the next chapter in this series will definitely have some bad blood.
4. Notre Dame; October 7
The Tar Heels have always been perceived as a mediocre power-five team, and in some cases they have even been considered underachievers. However, Larry Fedora has been able to flip the script the past two years. After amounting 19 wins the past two seasons, Carolina has now somewhat made a name for itself in the college football world. If the Tar Heels can pull of an upset over one of the blue bloods of college football, they may just be able to cement themselves as a legitimate college football power. A road win over Florida State in 2016 and a major upset over Notre Dame in 2017 could be the signature wins that will elevate Carolina to the next level. While this game may have no ACC ramifications, it certainly will mean a lot to the prestige and legacy of Carolina football.
5. Louisville; September 9
This game will be the first ever matchup between the two schools ever since Louisville has joined the ACC, so this clash will be a great opportunity for one side to assert dominance over the other. Furthermore, this game will be an early season test for the Tar Heels. The result of this game will reveal a lot about what Tar Heel fans can expect from the team. Carolina will be faced with the task of stopping Heisman-winner Lamar Jackson and his explosive offense, so this game will prove whether or not the defense can carry the team like it is expected to. This game will more than likely serve as a forecast for what the 2017 season holds.