State Championship Back in Play

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Larry Fedora conferred with former Tar Heel head coach Mack Brown prior to accepting the UNC job last December. Now he's going back to an old Brown staple by prioritizing the state championship.

Brown, the current Texas head coach who led the North Carolina program from 1988-1997, created the concept to serve as a secondary goal and build the foundation for strong recruiting effort with the state's borders.

With four ACC schools located in North Carolina, the approach served Brown well as the Tar Heels won 15 straight against N.C. State, Wake Forest and Duke during his final five seasons in Chapel Hill.

Former North Carolina head coach John Bunting and current N.C. State head coach Tom O'Brien also latched onto Brown's state championship idea, although their success has been limited. Bunting defeated all three in-state opponents just once in his six years (‘04) and O'Brien has also accomplished the task just once in his five years in Raleigh (‘08).

Duke last won the state title in 1989 under Steve Spurrier and Wake Forest went undefeated against UNC, N.C. State and Duke in '06 and '07.

Add Fedora to the mix of those head coaches pushing the local angle. The first-year UNC head coach has stressed the importance of locking down the state of North Carolina recruiting-wise ever since his initial press conference and that instate approach carries over to the schedule as well.

When asked on Monday if he had bought into Brown's state championship talk, Fedora responded: "Yeah, definitely."

"That's one of the goals of this football is to do that," he continued. "This is the first one. Well, actually this is the second one for us in the state, so it's very important. Our guys understand the importance of it."

The ACC isn't the only league playing football in North Carolina these days. East Carolina has several victories against ACC schools, while Appalachian State recently won three national championships at the FCS level. Add in other local programs – Elon, N.C. Central and Western Carolina, for example – and the pool of opposition for earning the state championship continues to grow.

North Carolina has already played Elon and has four more in-state opponents (East Carolina, Duke, N.C. State and Wake Forest) on the schedule, marking the first time since the 1940s that the Tar Heels will have five games against Old North State foes.

"That's half our schedule," quarterback Bryn Renner said. "Definitely, we want to achieve [the goal] of being the best team in the state, but it starts one game at a time. We're just trying to be 1-0 on Saturday and let the rest take care of itself."

The state championship likely takes on greater meaning in 2012 than it has at any point since Brown created the title due to North Carolina's postseason ban.

The Tar Heels hope to improve their in-state record to 2-0 with a win at Wake Forest on Saturday. UNC hasn't won in Winston-Salem since 2004. The Demon Deacons won the last meeting against North Carolina at Groves Stadium in 2007 by a score of 37-10.

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