CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – It’s been a decade since North Carolina last won the coveted state championship by defeating ACC rivals N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest in the same season.
In order to claim the state title for just the second time in 15 years, UNC must first hold serve against Wake Forest under the lights at Kenan Stadium on Saturday.
“That goal of being state champs is important, so this is critical,” Fedora said following practice on Wednesday. “Our guys know that; they understand that. Hopefully this team is mature enough and the leadership is doing what needs to be done to make sure we take care of our business.”
UNC is 22-17 against its in-state ACC rivals since 2000. The Tar Heels have played all three opponents in a season nine times during that stretch, winning all three games – and the state championship - just once (2004).
UNC last swept its in-state ACC schedule in 2005 by beating N.C. State, 31-24, and Duke, 24-21.
The state championship and the ACC Coastal Division crown are annual team goals for the Tar Heels. The former not only potentially fuels the latter, but it also aids the program in building its in-state recruiting prowess.
“If you want to recruit the state and win the state, you need to win the state,” Fedora said. “And to do that, you’ve got to be good against everybody you play in the state. And I would imagine every program in the state feels the same way.”
N.C. State leads the Big Four in state championships (’00, ’02 & ‘08) this millennium. Wake Forest has won the title twice (’06 & ‘07), while Duke was the last program to accomplish that goal in 2013.
How big of a goal is the state championship? It’s a focal point the coaching staff emphasizes on a daily basis, according to sophomore defensive end Dajaun Drennon.
“It’s definitely big, as far as bragging rights and pride,” senior defensive tackle Justin Thomason said. “We want to beat everybody in this state. We want to say, ‘This is our state.’ So it’s definitely a big goal.”
UNC won the state championship in each of Mack Brown’s final five seasons (’93-97) in Chapel Hill.