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Three observations from Syracuse-North Carolina: Tar Heels dominate the fourth quarter
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — After spending the offseason among the most hyped teams in the Bowl Subdivision, No. 19 North Carolina opened the 2020 season with a 31-6 win against Syracuse.
Winning seven games and the Military Bowl in coach Mack Brown’s debut made the Tar Heels a team to watch in the ACC and the chase for New Year’s Six bowls. Matching those expectations would give the ACC a third national contender, joining powerhouse Clemson and Notre Dame. (Long an independent program, the Irish will play as a member of the conference in 2020.)
Meanwhile, the hype around Syracuse has essentially evaporated after entering last season ranked No. 22 in the Amway Coaches Poll. On the heels of a four-win finish, the Orange began play projected to finish near the bottom of a deep conference.
Those original impressions might be slightly redrawn after the Tar Heels struggled for the first three quarters as a 23.5-point favorite.
The game was played without fans in attendance due to guidelines set by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. The protocol is expected to remain in place through September.
Here are three observations from the Tar Heels’ win:
The Tar Heels dominate late
Most teams have struggled out of the gate after an uneven offseason. (More on this in a moment.) In that sense, the Tar Heels’ sluggishness against Syracuse shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Another factor to consider: UNC is still young, with more sophomores in Saturday’s starting lineup, eight, than seniors, seven. The Tar Heels’ centerpiece, quarterback Sam Howell, is only a sophomore.
There was still something disappointing about the team’s performance during the first three quarters as a heavy favorite against one of the weaker teams in an ACC loaded with teams projected to win between five and seven games during an abbreviated regular season.
The fourth was a different story: UNC scored 21 points in the final 15 minutes for a final score that belies how the Tar Heels wrestled with Syracuse. UNC would need to put together a more complete game against…
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