Shortly after 10:00 AM on Thursday morning it was announced that the Tar Heels opponent for this upcoming Saturday, the Charlotte 49ers, were cancelling the game this weekend due to COVID-19. While there are differing rumors as to just how many players have tested positive to this point, contract tracing from whoever has tested has led to one unit, the team’s offensive line, being nearly completely diminished, leading to the decision for the team to cancel.
That now leaves the Tar Heels with two consecutive open weeks, meaning that as of right now, the team would have to wait until October 3rd to play their next game. Considering that the layoff between games at that point would be 21 days, the Tar Heels would almost virtually be restarting their season and that’s something the team and athletic department should want to avoid altogether. In his statement that he released shortly after the announcement of the cancellation, athletic director Bubba Cunningham did confirm that the Tar Heels are making calls to try and get an opponent in place for next Saturday. We rank the teams that the Tar Heels could reach out to this week as they look to add an opponent to the schedule on September 26th.
1. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
The Chanticleers are far from the toughest challenge that the Tar Heels face out of the teams that are available, but that might be the most attractive thing to look for in an opponent with the short turn around. The Chanticleers got their season off to a strong start, though, by going to Kansas and dominating the Jayhawks, so they are not a team that is going to lay down easily. This game would be very helpful for the Coastal Carolina athletic department, as well, as they would have to be brought to Chapel Hill due to the ACC out-of-conference rules for this season. It’s also hard to ignore the quarterback matchup here that would feature Sam Howell vs. Grayson McCall, former high school rivals at Sun Valley and Porter Ridge high schools in Indian Trail, NC, going head-to-head.
2. Austin Peay Governors
The Governors are scheduled to finish their 2020 fall slate on Saturday when they travel to Cincinnati to play the Bearcats as they open their season. They have dropped their first two games of the season, including last week’s 55-0 loss to Pittsburgh, so this would be an opponent that the Tar Heels should be able to do plenty of damage against despite the short turnaround. While it may take a bit of convincing, the extra money that the Austin Peay program could earn by playing the game might just be enough to convince them to play one more game.
3. Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders
The Tar Heels and Blue Raiders played each other way back in 2013 and this would be another favorable matchup for the Tar Heels due to the circumstances. The Blue Raiders were blown out in their first game of the season against Army and are still looking for answers on both sides of the football. This matchup would be a good chance for the Tar Heels to work out some of the struggles they had in their first game before their meeting with Boston College the next week.
4. Navy Midshipmen
It’s never easy to prepare for Ken Niumatololo and company, but this season’s Navy isn’t like those in the past. The team did not tackle throughout fall camp, meaning the season opener against BYU was the first time the team had tackled since last season. That showed as Cougars were able to put 580 yards of total offense and 55 points on the board. The Tar Heels would have to be able to adjust to playing a triple-option offense on short notice, something that likely won’t be easy, but this still feels a relatively manageable option if the team is hellbent on adding another game.
5. Marshall Thundering Herd
This would be interesting because the Thundering Herd would come into this matchup pretty battle tested already. The season-opener against Eastern Kentucky was far from a test for this team, but they simply dominated the Colonels from start to finish, winning 59-0. The Herd’s test this weekend will be a little more stiff, as they’ll welcome Appalachian State to Huntington. This is a game the Tar Heels would probably like to avoid if the options above are available, but would still be a game the team would be expected to win.
6. Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
The Hilltoppers were the preseason favorites by many to win the Conference-USA and although they weren’t great, hung around in their season opener against Louisville this past weekend. This Saturday, they’ll get the opportunity to get a win on the board when they head home to entertain the Liberty Flames, who will be opening their season. Not only is Western Kentucky a very solid Group of 5 team, but they are also the only team on this list that would come in having played in each of the prior two weeks prior to this game, meaning they will have a chance to bring some momentum into this game if it were to happen. This game, like the game against Marshall, is a game you would expect the Tar Heels to win, but on a short turnaround, could be one that becomes a battle if you're not careful.
7. Air Force Falcons
This might be the toughest game for the Tar Heels to prepare for, as the Falcons, the lone Mountain West team that is scheduled to play in the fall at this moment, are not scheduled to play a game until October 3rd against Navy. With no games played this year, the staff would have to rely solely on last year's tape to prepare, while the Falcons would have the Syracuse tape in their arsenal to help them to prepare. The Falcons would have some of the normal early season kinks that they would likely need to work through, but they return a lot of production, especially offensively, from a team that won 11 games and finished at No. 22 in the final AP poll of the season. This seems like a game you should probably avoid at all costs.