UNC Tar Heels fall behind Clemson, Coastal in football poll

It’s November already, and did you know that there’s yet to be a week in which every FBS team in the Carolinas have all played? It’s true. Didn’t happen last week, with N.C. State off. Won’t happen this week, with Wake Forest off.

Never happened earlier this season, with a bunch of games postponed or canceled because of the pandemic. Teams don’t always play at the same time, anyway, what with regularly scheduled off weeks and all. But the schedule this season has been especially chaotic.

Most teams have played six games by now. Some five. Charlotte is among those with five, and only has three games remaining. Clemson is the only school in the Carolinas that has played seven games, and it has four games remaining — in addition to whatever waits in the postseason.

We’re more than halfway through the season now and, as rocky as it has been, the end point is on the horizon. We’ve made it this far, and maybe things have even gone more smoothly than a best-case scenario might have predicted a couple of months ago.

You say that, though, and then remember that Trevor Lawrence is quarantining after a positive virus test.

Onto Week 8 of the All-Carolina poll:

1. Clemson (7-0, 6-0 ACC)

Previous ranking: 1

Last week: W vs. Boston College, 34-28

Up next: at Notre Dame, Saturday

It turns out that Trevor Lawrence is pretty important to Clemson’s success. Who knew? Without Lawrence, whose positive COVID-19 test personifies the riskiness of this entire college football venture, the Tigers looked highly vulnerable against Boston College. Does Clemson’s 36-game regular-season winning streak end on Saturday? Stay tuned.

2. Coastal Carolina (6-0, 4-0 Sun Belt)

Previous ranking: 3

Last week: W at Georgia State, 51-0

Up next: vs. South Alabama, Saturday

Yes, feel free to consider the competition, but Coastal’s defense can no longer be ignored. Six games into this weird season, and after a shutout last weekend, the Chanticleers rank 14th nationally in total yards allowed per game (305.2). Only five teams nationally have more sacks than Coastal’s 20. There’s room on the bandwagon in Conway.

3. North Carolina (4-2, 4-2 ACC)

Previous ranking: 2

Last week: L at Virginia, 44-41

Up next: at Duke, Saturday

Such a strange coincidence that UNC’s two nemesis of the first Mack Brown heyday are interrupting the Tar Heels’ attempted resurgence in Brown’s second go-round. Back then, in the mid-1990s, UNC never got past Florida State and often lost on the road at Virginia. The Tar Heels’ two losses this season: at FSU and Virginia. UNC’s defensive rebuild will be a process.

4. Wake Forest (4-2, 3-2 ACC)

Previous ranking: 6

Last week: W at Syracuse, 38-14

Up next: at North Carolina, Nov. 14

The Demon Deacons are good? The Demon Deacons are good. It was hard to know what to make of Wake after an 0-2 start that included a defeat at N.C. State. But since: Four straight wins, including a dominant performance over the weekend at Syracuse. An off week this week comes at a good time, before an intriguing game at North Carolina.

5. Appalachian State (4-1, 2-0 Sun Belt)

Previous ranking: 4

Last week: W at Louisiana-Monroe, 31-13

Up next: at Texas State, Saturday

Can we just skip ahead here to Nov. 21? That’s when App State and Coastal Carolina play, and it’ll likely decide the Sun Belt. In the meantime, the Mountaineers have a couple of ho-hummers on the schedule, including one upcoming this weekend against a Texas State team that has lost five in a row.

6. N.C. State (4-2, 4-2 ACC)

Previous ranking: 5

Last week: off

Up next: vs. Miami, Friday

Longtime former News & Observer N.C. State beat reporter Joe Giglio coined the “law of the Wolf,” which dictates that when you expect the least from the Wolfpack, it delivers the most. Is this game, against Miami on Friday, one of those? Certainly, a victory here doesn’t seem all too likely, but worse State teams have pulled more surprising upsets.

7. South Carolina (2-3, 2-3 SEC)

Previous ranking: 7

Last week: off

Up next: vs. Texas A&M, Saturday

Earlier this season the Gamecocks beat Auburn for the first time as a member of the SEC. (Hard to believe, right?) South Carolina will need some similarly good mojo Saturday against Texas A&M, which is 6-0 against the Gamecocks since joining the SEC in 2014. When last we saw South Carolina it was on the receiving end of a sound beating from LSU a couple weeks ago.

8. Duke (2-5, 1-5 ACC)

Previous ranking: 8

Last week: W vs. Charlotte, 53-19

Up next: vs. North Carolina, Saturday

The last time Duke beat a Mack Brown-coached UNC team? You have to go back to 1989. An up-and-coming coach named Steve Spurrier happened to be leading the Blue Devils then. And after a 41-0 victory against the Tar Heels, Spurrier had his team gather in front of the scoreboard for a picture. You may have heard about this. Only been 31 years now.

9. East Carolina (1-4, 1-3 AAC)

Previous ranking: 10

Last week: L at Tulsa, 34-30

Up next: vs. Tulane, Saturday

Tough break for the Pirates, whose defeat at Tulsa came after a replay official incorrectly overturned an ECU fumble recovery in the final minutes. Instead of a turnover, Tulsa maintained possession, went down the field and scored the winning touchdown. (A statement from the American Athletic Conference conference confirmed the wrong call was made.) That kind of season for the Pirates but Tulane offers an opportunity for a victory on Saturday.

10. Charlotte (2-3, 2-1, Conference USA)

Previous ranking: 9

Last week: L at Duke, 53-19

Up next: at Middle Tennessee State, Saturday

Few teams nationally have had as strange of a season as Charlotte, what with the cancellations and reschedulings related to the pandemic. With three games left, the end is on the horizon for the 49ers — and that’s probably not the worst thing in this lost year.

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Matt L. Stephens, The Charlotte Observer

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