Heel Tough Blog: 2020 Football Schedule Breakdown


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The most anticipated season of Tar Heel football since 2010 has it schedule officially set as of Wednesday morning. That’s when the ACC officially released their full 2020 schedule, completing the Tar Heels full schedule for Mack Brown’s second year. Let’s take an in-depth look at what the 2020 schedule entails for the Tar Heels.


Jeffrey A. Camarati- GoHeels

April 18th: Spring Game

The second spring game of the second Mack Brown stint in Chapel Hill has a chance to be a special event. After selling out every home game of the 2019 season, the expectation is that there will be a solid turnout and the fact that there's so much excitement around this 2020 season won’t hurt either. The battles along the offensive and defensive line will be the focus, as will the backup battle between veteran Jace Ruder and rookie Jacolby Criswell.


Tommy Gilligan- USA Today Sports (Surratt)/ ESPN (Gabriel)

September 4th: @Central Florida

All-Time Meetings: 0 (First Meeting)

Last Meeting: N/A

The first meeting between these teams will be a huge one on the first Friday night of the season, as the Tar Heels will face a stiff test out in Orlando, as both teams look to get their season off to a strong start. While Josh Heupel’s squad wasn’t quite as dominant as Scott Frost had the Knights the prior to season, they enter off a strong 10-3 season and will return fourteen starters from a year ago, including starting quarterback Dillon Gabriel, who put up huge numbers as a true freshman in 2019. This should be a great quarterback matchup and a stiff test for the Tar Heels to begin 2020.


Rob Kinnan- USA Today Sports (Howell)/ CBS Sports (Nix)

September 12th: vs. Auburn

All-Time Meetings: 6 (4-2-0)

Last Meeting: 2001 (16-10 win)

It doesn’t get any easier in the second week. In the first meeting between the Heels and Tigers in nearly 20 years, the two will meet in the same city, Atlanta, that they met in back in the 2001 Peach Bowl. Both teams will be looking to make a major statement early in the season, as two of college football’s most exciting quarterbacks will go head-to-head. While the Tigers are losing a lot of talent, especially on the defensive side of the football, this is still an Auburn team that will be looked at as one of the dark horses to make the College Football Playoff in 2020. This will be a huge test for a Tar Heel offense that was clicking on all cylinders late in the 2019 season and will be a nice measuring stick for where the excitement will be for this 2020 team will be going forward.


Rob Kinnan- USA Today Sports (Brown)/ James Madison Athletics (Agyei-Obese)

September 19th: James Madison

All-Time Meetings: 3 (3-0-0)

Last Meeting: 2016 (56-28 win)

While this is the easiest game on the Tar Heels schedule to this point, the Dukes have become possibly the most consistent FCS team outside of North Dakota State in the last few seasons. The team didn’t miss a beat in 2019 under new head coach Curt Cignetti, who led the Dukes to FCS title game once again. While they will have to replace their starting quarterback and some major defensive pieces, this should still be a tougher test than some people may realize.


Jeremy Brevard- USA Today Sports (Williams)/ Sports Illustrated (Mason)

September 26th: Georgia Tech

All-Time Meetings: 54 (21-30-3)

Last Meeting: 2019 (38-22 win)

In the first ACC game of the season, the Tar Heels will welcome in the Yellow Jackets, a team that should be improved in 2020, but still a work in progress. The incredibly young team from a year ago will return 19 starters this season, but still have many players trying to make the transition to a more traditional offense. This is a nice draw for the Tar Heels to open their 2020 ACC slate with.


James Guillory- USA Today Sports/ Keith Srakocic- AP Photo

October 3rd: @Virginia

All-Time Meetings: 125 (64-57-4)

Last Meeting: 2019 (38-31 loss)

The South’s Oldest Rivalry will meet for the 126th time with their earliest meeting in the rivalry since 2011. Bronco Mendenhall’s squad became the seventh different ACC Coastal champion in 2019, but many expect they’ll take a natural step back with all that is departing headlined by Bryce Perkins graduation. There is still plenty of talent on defense, though, and Mendenhall has done a great job establish his winning mindset, meaning this will still be a tough test for the Tar Heels, especially with it being on the road.


Charles LeClaire- USA Today Sports (Newsome)/ Virginia Tech Athletics (Ashby)

October 10th: Virginia Tech

All-Time Meetings: 41 (11-24-6)

Last Meeting: 2019 (43-41 loss)

Arguably the most important matchup of the 2020 season, this game will pit the two early favorites in the ACC against each other. The Tar Heels have had their issues beating the Hokies, something they haven’t done since 2015, but they’ll likely have to get over that hump in 2020 if they want to win the ACC Coastal. While there have been a lot of players leaving via the transfer portal, there is still a lot in place to suggest this will be one of the Tar Heels toughest tests of the entire season.


Neil Redmond- USA Today Sports (Gemmel)/ Duke Athletics (Rumph II)

October 17th: @Duke

All-Time Meetings: 105 (60-41-4)

Last Meeting: 2019 (20-17 win)

After a phenomenal finish to the 2019 matchup, the Tar Heels will take the short trip down the road to Durham in 2020. David Cutcliffe had a relatively young group this past year, so this should be an experienced group, although they are tasked with finding a new starter under center. With all of that, the Tar Heels will be the more talented team and should be favored to win heading into this one.


Timmy Gilligan- USA Today Sports (Fox)/ Miami Hurricanes Athletics (Rousseau)

October 24th: @Miami

All-Time Meetings: 21 (10-11-0)

Last Meeting: 2019 (28-25 win)

The Hurricanes are one of the favorites of the writers every year and this year will be no different. D’Eriq King’s transfer in will be what Manny Diaz hopes is the solution to an unstable quarterback situation, but there is a lot of work that will have to be done to replenish a defense that returns just five starters from a year ago. The trip to Hard Rock Stadium won’t be an easy one, but there are still a lot of questions around this Miami program.


Tommy Gilligan- USA Today Sports (Duck)/ Hartford Courant (Coyle)

November 7th: Connecticut

All-Time Meetings: 3 (3-0-0)

Last Meeting: 2009 (38-12 win)

The Huskies are making the move from the American Conference to the Independent life this season and the Tar Heels added them to the schedule in place of Old Dominion. The Huskies have really struggled since Randy Edsall made his return to Storrs, but he will bring back an experienced team for the first time since returning, including a defense that returns all eleven starters. Even with that, this might be the easiest game on the 2020 slate.


Jeremy Brevard- USA Today Sports/ Pitt Athletics (Ford)

November 14th: Pittsburgh

All-Time Meetings: 14 (10-4-0)

Last Meeting: 2019 (34-27 loss)

Last year loss in Pittsburgh was the first time that the Tar Heels have lost to Panthers since they entered the ACC and they are hoping to respond in Kenan in what could be an important late season matchup. The Panthers defense should once again be a strong unit, especially the front seven and Kenny Pickett returns to try and help the offense take another step forward for a team that will compete for the Coastal title again. With this being the final Coastal matchup of the season, this will be one to circle as one of the most important games of the season.


Jeffrey A. Camarati- GoHeels (McKethan)/ Boston College Athletics (Richardson)

November 21st: @Boston College

All-Time Meetings: 5 (3-2-0)

Last Meeting: 2013 (34-10 win)

This will be just the sixth meeting all-time with the Eagles, a team who will be going through plenty of changes this offseason. Jeff Hafley takes over at head coach in place of Steve Addazio as he takes on the challenge of going from a position coach to becoming a head coach of a Power 5 team. That alone is tough enough, but then add in the fact that star running back A.J. Dillon is gone along with quarterback Anthony Brown and it may be a tough road in 2020 for the Eagles.


Jim Hawkins- Inside Carolina/ Gerry Broome- AP Photo (Knight)

November 27th: NC State

All-Time Meetings: 109 (67-36-6)

Last Meeting: 2019 (41-10 win)

The season will close with the second Black Friday meeting between these two teams in the last five seasons, as the Tar Heels look for their win at home against the Wolfpack since 2012. Dave Doeren’s squad has a lot departing from a team that struggled in 2019, but the rivalry alone will make this a tough game for the Tar Heels. Add in the fact that this team may be playing for Doeren’s job and there is a reason this won’t be an easy game to close the 2020 season with.