Starting the 2013 season with a tragic 1-5 record, things were looking quite grim for the North Carolina Tar Heels — especially since they were expected to do big things with experience on both sides of the ball. However, the Tar Heels won their next five games and, to everyone’s surprise, squeaked into a bowl game — and won.
On the other side of the field, the Liberty Flames began the 2013 season with a 3-4 record before they too went on a five-game win streak to finish the season with a respectable 8-4 record. None of their losses were by more than 10 points, remarkably, and they will try to turn those close losses into wins this season.
North Carolina returns quarterback Marquise Williams from the 7-6 squad from a season ago and he was 4-1 as a starter, having started just the final five games of the season, including a Belk Bowl win. While he passed for nine touchdowns and ran for five during that five-game stretch, the junior quarterback still finds himself in a position battle with redshirt freshman Mitch Trubisky. Losing tight end Eric Ebron will hurt the passing game, but returning top wide out Quinshad Davis, who caught 10 touchdowns last season, will give whichever quarterback wins the job a major boost. It’s going to be hard to pass up on Williams as the starter because he also led the team in rushing with 490 yards.
Liberty averaged a solid 420 yards and 37.2 points per game in 2013 and the offense was a major reason the Flames finished the season with five straight wins. The Flames return their top two rushers from last year, including leading rusher Desmond Rice who finished the campaign with 967 yards and 16 touchdowns. Junior quarterback Josh Woodrum also returns as he passed for 2,581 yards and 19 touchdowns while starting all 12 games in 2013. Woodrum will have a ton of help in the passing game as the top three receivers return, combining for 1,898 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2013.
Defensively, the Flames actually held their opponents in check, allowing just 17.6 points and 314 total yards per game. North Carolina wasn’t as effective in 2013, allowing 24.5 points and 403.2 yards per game — good for 43rd and 64th in the nation, respectively. The Tar Heels do, however, return six key starters on defense.
Liberty will travel to North Carolina to take on the Tar Heels at 6 p.m. EST on Saturday, Aug. 30. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN 3.
PREDICTION: Liberty 7, North Carolina 52
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.