Exploring the Heels‘ wide range of end of season scenarios

Chapel Hill, N.C. — In college, my roommate and I spent countless hours throughout the last month of basketball season analyzing every possible scenario for the final ACC standings. We‘d update these scenarios following every game. Of every team. In the entire conference. Looking back, we had a lot of free time on our hands.

For example, let‘s say Carolina was 8-2 in the conference with six ACC games remaining (this is during the glory days of the ACC – 16 games, nine teams). First, we‘d map out the best case scenario, which would be for Carolina to close the season 6-0 and finish 14-2. Then we‘d map out the worst case scenario, which would be to close the season 0-6 and finish 8-8. Finally, we‘d map out the most realistic option, so for the sake of this exercise, let‘s say that would be to close the season 4-2 and finish 12-4.

The problem is we couldn’t stop there. Sure, now we know Carolina‘s final record, but where does that put them in relation to the rest of the league? So next we had to map out potential records of other ACC teams in each scenario. Toss in the analysis of tie-breakers and before long you realize that you probably need index cards, sticky notes, push pins, and twine to essentially create a wall similar to that of every TV detective chasing a serial killer.

Typically, we did this only during basketball season and largely as an exercise to determine if the Heels would be the first or second seed in the ACC Tournament, but since we‘ve reached what would have been the halfway point of the Carolina football season (had the UCF game not been canceled), now seems like a good time to perform a similar analysis for the gridiron Tar Heels.

Best Case Scenario

Carolina closes the season 6-0, which means wins over Syracuse (away), Virginia (away), Georgia Tech (home), Duke (away) and N.C. State (home). Plus Western Carolina. This gives Carolina a 7-4 regular season record and a 6-2 ACC finish.

In order to trick your brain into believing this scenario is possible, remind yourself that Carolina was right on the doorstep of turning the corner Saturday night against Virginia Tech. They racked up 522 total yards while keeping the Hokies’ offense in check. Two (extremely) ill-timed turnovers and/or a couple of missed/dropped passes go a different way and, but a blowout. It stands to reason, then, that you could reasonably expect to have a good chance at beating the Orange, Hoos, Jackets and Devils. At that point, you hope to ride the momentum (and continued improvement) to a win over

Unfortunately, even in this best case scenario, it is extremely unlikely Carolina would win the Coastal. In order for that to happen, Virginia Tech would need to lose to three of the following five teams: Georgia Tech, Boston College, Pitt, Miami and Virginia. One (Miami) is definitely possible. Two (Miami and a slip up) could also happen. Three seems a little far-fetched. Still, 7-4 and bowling would have to be considered a wildly successful season at this point.

Worst Case Scenario

Carolina closes the season 0-6, which means losses to all of the teams we just said they would beat three paragraphs ago. Including Western Carolina. This gives Carolina a final record of 1-10 and lands them dead last in the Coastal at 1-7.

In order to trick your brain into believing this scenario is possible, you have to tell yourself that what happened against Miami will happen again in every game this season. The Heels will never fix their turnover issues or solve the quarterback question, nor will they turn the corner and put all the pieces together. There is no hope of improvement, and may God have mercy on our souls.

There‘s nothing left to analyze in this situation except whether there is any chance Fedora could keep his job should it play out.

Realistic Scenario

The problem with trying to determine a realistic scenario with this year‘s edition of Carolina football is the wide disparity between the product we‘ve seen on the field so far. If someone only watched the Virginia Tech game, that person could likely be convinced the Heels could finish the year 4-2 or 5-1 (with a loss to State and possibly one other slip up). On the other hand, if someone only watched the Miami game, that person would definitely believe Carolina‘s only remaining shot at a victory is against Western Carolina.

But what if someone watched both games? Speaking from experience, that person‘s head likely exploded. But if it didn‘t, and they wanted to try to map out a reasonable expectation for Carolina‘s final six games, it would be a difficult task.

If I had to make a guess at where this season winds up, I‘d say this team will likely lose to NC State, beat Western Carolina, and then hopefully win two of four “50/50” games against Syracuse, Virginia, Georgia Tech and Duke. While 4-7 (3-5 ACC) is not the season anyone would have wanted prior to the California game, at this point it sounds like a relatively successful back half of the season.

The Heels get their first crack at one of those 50/50 games Saturday at Syracuse. Cross your fingers, folks!