2012 ACC Football Season Recap: North Carolina Tar Heels

In Its First Year Under Larry Fedora, North Carolina's Offense Exploded to New Heights

In Its First Year Under Larry Fedora, North Carolina’s Offense Exploded to New Heights

Team: North Carolina Tar Heels

W-L: 8-4 (5-3)

Postseason: N/A

Top Offensive Performer: Giovani Bernard, RB

Top Defensive Performer: Kevin Reddick, LB

After a very encouraging 2011 season, 2012 was supposed to be the year that UNC put it all together and finally won the Coastal division. And technically, they did. But due to a postseason ban, the school was not allowed to play for the ACC title, nor win the Coastal division. When looking at head coach Larry Fedora’s first year on the job though, it’s tough to argue that the Heels’ season was anything but a success — and another step toward the team’s goal of playing for a league championship.

When Fedora showed up at Chapel Hill, there appeared to be trepidation surrounding his spread offense. Quarterback Bryn Renner had always played in a pro-style attack, while running back Giovani Bernard was unsure how he’d continue to play a key role for an offense that appeared to be moving away from the running game. As evidenced by the team’s 14th-ranked offense this year, everything actually turned out just fine. Renner was a natural for the spread, and grew my leaps and bounds in comparison to his sophomore campaign. While attempting 72 more passes than 2011 (in one less game), the now-junior only saw a slight dip in accuracy, while throwing for more TDs (28 versus 26) with less sacks and interceptions. And Bernard actually thrived as both part of the passing game, and as a result of its importance in the offense. As a receiving option out of the backfield, Bernard caught 47 passes for 490 yards and five scores (in just 10 games). Plus, because of the spread’s emphasis on the passing game, the slashing sophomore back also saw more holes between the tackles as defenses feared Renner throwing the ball. The result? A campaign that should’ve gotten more Heisman buzz, as Bernard racked up another 1,228 yards on the ground with 12 TDs — again, in 10 games and on 55 less carries compared to last season. Not to be completely outdone, backup (and 2013 starter) A.J. Blue even got in on the act, rushing his way to 433 yards and nine scores on top of that. Overall, the UNC offense averaged 92 yards per game more than they did last year; a phenomenal jump in just one season.

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ACC Media Days 2012: Top 10 Storylines

We Give a Rundown of the Top 10 Topics You’ll Be Hearing About at ACC Media Days, Which Start This Sunday

It’s nearly football season. Or at least I keep telling myself as much. But it’s getting even closer with ACC Media Days starting this Sunday, July 22. While I’ll be down in North Carolina myself next week, it sadly won’t be for the event. Nonetheless, I’ll be paying a visit to Chapel Hill and hopefully engaging in some lively banter with locals about BBQ and the upcoming football season.

Below, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 talking points we’re likely to see addressed at media days. Some topics (like the top item), commissioner John Swofford and the coaches will have plenty to say about. While others, like the ongoing institutional issues at two universities in particular, will be pushed aside in a valiant attempt to forget about them for two days. Without further ado, your guide to ACC Media Days 2012:

1. Syracuse & Pittsburgh Joining in 2013: After both schools announced separate $7.5M settlements for early exits from the Big East, there’s finally a date attached to their arrival. And while there won’t be any representatives from either institution at the event, there’s bound to be a ton of questions. With the 14-team model now ready to go for next season, we’ll hear all about the new scheduling conventions, permanent rivals, and overall feelings about traveling up to New York and Pittsburgh (odds are no one beyond Boston College is that thrilled). All of this will be framed within the “new era of the ACC” narrative, and everyone will be told how much bigger, better and different things will be.

2. Where are Discussions With Notre Dame at?: This will be a hot topic amongst media attendees, even if Swofford will likely try and pretend there’s nothing going on whatsoever. The league offices have admitted to conversations about the Orange Bowl (we’ll get to that). But what about expansion? If those conversations have started at all, no one’s saying, and rightfully so. As we’ve seen during the last two rounds of expansion, Swofford pulls off deals like this in the dead of night. If something happens, everyone but his secretary will be surprised when it’s announced. Continue reading

The ACC’s Tobacco Road Favoritism

Has Tobacco Road Favoritism Been Detrimental to the ACC? Clemson (and Florida State) Would Say Yes

Last September, the ACC’s addition of Syracuse and Pittsburgh was met with a collective “meh” from the league’s football schools. But despite the seemingly lackluster performances of the conference’s new members, their joining was generally interpreted as a sign that the ACC was stable and strong. While the Big East and the Big 12 were facing threats to their very existence, the ACC’s place was secure. It was a conference that people wanted to join, not one threatened by exodus.

Less than a year later, a fresh round of rumors would have us believe that the conference’s collapse is imminent. The football-first schools are supposedly on their way to the Big 12, setting the scene for four power conferences which would line up nicely with the impending four-team playoff. The Big Ten and the SEC might pick up some of the detritus, leaving the league’s weaker schools to fend for themselves.

The culprit is Tobacco Road, or at least the idea of Tobacco Road. The Big 12’s loss of Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and especially Texas A&M was driven by resentment at Texas’ dominance of the league. In a similar way, some ACC schools, especially Clemson and Florida State, begrudge the conference’s domination by the four North Carolina schools, especially Duke and UNC.

It’s no secret that Tobacco Road’s influence in ACC decision-making is disproportionate to the Carolina schools’ numbers. The ACC is a basketball-first conference, after all, and with flagship programs like Duke and North Carolina, numbers three and four on the all-time wins list, it’s understandable that their voices would be louder. ACC football has been an afterthought for most of the conference’s history, apart from brief national runs by Maryland in the 1950s and Clemson in the 1980s, and Florida State’s roughshod run over all competition during the 1990s. Continue reading

ACC Football Chat: About Arkansas Firing Bobby Petrino

Former Arkansas Coach Bobby Petrino Messed Up. Is He the Only College Coach With Some Baggage, Though?

In our weekly chats, Mike and I discuss different topics pertaining to ACC football and then post the conversation up here. Disagree with us? By all means, share your thoughts below. Happy to continue to the debate.

This week’s topic: The Bobby Petrino scandal and subsequent firing at Arkansas

John: First off, what do u think of Bobby Petrino’s decision to be fired, rather than dealing with penalties from Arkansas? Dumb move on his part?

Mike: He chose to be fired. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

I can see why the school wanted to take action. His conduct reflected poorly on the school. But the Razorbacks are a solid team, and choosing to be fired just makes him look like more of a quitter, especially after the way he left the Atlanta Falcons. And the team was good enough that they probably couldve survived a game or two without him

J: … And don’t forget how he left Louisville, too. So what impact does this have on Arkansas? Footnote, or differencemaker?

M: He’s not a bad coach. If he misses a few cupcake games, no big deal, but not coming back at all will cause them to underperform.

J: If Doug Marrone had done the same, what would ur stance be?

M: Probably the same. Screwing around on your wife isn’t illegal, and he shouldn’t lose his job for it, even if the girl was a subordinate (unless his contract specifically forbids it). However, he’s a public figure, and his conduct makes his employer look bad, so a suspension is warranted. I’d say the same about Marrone, or anyone, really. Continue reading