No. 18 North Carolina kicks off a 2020 season that’s loaded with big expectations with a home game against Syracuse on Saturday. This Tar Heels-Orange showdown will serve as the first ACC game of the campaign. It’s the beginning of a season unlike any other in the league, with 15 teams playing in one division, a 10-game conference schedule and with Notre Dame as a full member.
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Syracuse vs North Carolina Live Stream
It’s the second time these two teams have ever met as conference opponents, a result of their cross-division relationship, with the Orange winning the 2018 meeting 40-37 in triple overtime.
But the rare meeting of Atlantic and Coastal teams isn’t the only result of the adjustments that have been made to allow for college football to happen this fall. The game will be played without fans in the stands and with rigorous third party COVID-19 testing for both teams before and after the game. Football may be back, but it is not without acknowledgement of the challenges associated with pulling it off.
Syracuse vs North Carolina Live Streaming
North Carolina: This program has come a long way in 12 months. At the start of the 2019 season, Mack Brown’s return to Chapel Hill was celebrated as more of a topic of intrigue than national relevance. The Tar Heels were staring down a difficult schedule that included Clemson in the cross-division rotation and had oddsmakers projecting between four and five wins on the season. But then they opened with wins against South Carolina and Miami, came a two-point try short of upsetting Clemson and quarterback Sam Howell emerged as one of the top freshman in the country. No longer a topic of intrigue or novelty in college football, Brown’s return was proven to be among the most significant developments in ACC football.
That better-than-expected showing in 2019 was followed by wins on the recruiting trail that powered a hype train all the way to this season opener against Syracuse. The program is carrying a top-25 preseason ranking, has been picked to finish third in the ACC behind Clemson and Notre Dame and opens the year as three-touchdown favorites against Syracuse. Howell has two 1,000-yard receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher back with him to lead an offense that’s expected to be one of the most prolific in the league, and the 2020 schedule, even with 10 ACC games, notably includes no date against Clemson. We’ve seen what Brown and the Tar Heels are able to do with low expectations, now we see how they respond with the bar raised as high as its been in years.
Syracuse: This is the inverse of the North Carolina storyline, because Syracuse has come a long way in a year. The Orange started 2019 ranked in the preseason top 25 on the heels of a 10-win season that appeared to signify a breakthrough for the Dino Babers era. After beating Liberty in the opener, the team went on to lose six of its next eight games before finishing with a 5-7 record. Now after starting last year in the national top 25, Syracuse begins 2020 picked No. 14 out of 15 teams in the preseason ACC poll. What was hype for the next step forward for a program that had apparently leveled up has become an afterthought. Now Syracuse goes into each ACC game fighting for respect in the same way it had to during Babers’ first two years with the Orange.
Tommy DeVito carried high expectations in replacing Erik Dungey, and while the team’s shortcomings over the season were disappointing, the young quarterback played much better down the stretch. If DeVito and the passing attack can prove to be prolific, this Syracuse team can prove the preseason expectations wrong again, only this time in a more positive direction for the program.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 12 | Time: Noon ET
Location: Kenan Stadium — Chapel Hill, North Carolina
TV: ACC Network | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Game prediction, picks
This is a big whopping number for a conference game that will be the first action for either team after limited-to-no spring and a socially distanced preseason camp. While I’m all in on North Carolina having one of the best offenses in the ACC this season, you have to leave room for some first week hiccups in your expectations for this game. Those points might show up in less touchdowns but also in having to settle for field goals when that high-octane offense gets into scoring position and the field shrinks. Then I’m looking at Tommy DeVito and wondering if, after a very disappointing 2019, he’s taken the steps forward to go put a couple touchdowns on the board against North Carolina’s defense. Tar Heels win handily, but more than three touchdowns is a big ask at this point in the season Pick: Syracuse (+22.5)