CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Coastal Division champs. State champs.
Larry Fedora has been opening team meetings with those five words dating back to spring ball. It’s been a long road from then to now, and while the Tar Heels have embraced the concept of winning each game to secure a 1-0 record each week, those efforts have led the program to the final two weeks of the regular season with both goals still intact.
Win on Saturday against Virginia Tech, and UNC wraps up its first-ever Coastal Division title and a trip to the ACC Championship to play No. 1 Clemson in Charlotte on Dec. 5. Win next week against N.C. State, and the Tar Heels can claim their first state championship – wins over Wake Forest, Duke and the Wolfpack - since 2004.
Adding that clarity to this week’s game preparation for the Hokies “definitely” helps, according to Jeff Schoettmer.
“There are bigger implications for this game, and we know that,” the senior middle linebacker said on Monday. “We understand that it’s Frank Beamer’s last home game, so they’re going to be fired up, but we really aren’t worried about all of that. We want to control what we can control, and that’s how we play, but it will be cool, if we win this game, to win it at Virginia Tech and clinch the Coastal in that way.”
Fedora maintained his status quo approach to the rapid ascension up the polls and standings his Tar Heels have sustained in recent weeks, dismissing the relevancy of the Coastal Division title being on the line in Blacksburg.
“I don’t really think our guys need any extra motivation,” Fedora said. “I think they’ve done things the same way week-in and week-out, and we’re going to continue to do that. I think the plan’s been pretty good. I think our seniors have done a really good job of working the plan, so I think we’ll just continue to do that.”
When asked if the team goals will change to include the ACC Championship, Fedora said, “Nope, that’s not the goal.”
UNC’s success, dating back to spring practice in March, has been built upon a foundation with two tangible goals. Win the division, and win the state, and good things will follow.
Those good things potentially include a shot at the program’s first ACC title since 1980 as well as inclusion in the College Football Playoff. However, such talk is irrelevant before accomplishing the primary goals.
“There’s no need to change,” Fedora said. “Why? Why would we change it? We’re like trained pigs. We’ve got something; we just keep doing it over and over and over.”
UNC has done just that, winning nine consecutive games in a season for the first time since the ACC started in 1953.