CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – No. 10 North Carolina has racked up a bevy of team and individual records in 2015, ranging from a program-best 11-game winning streak to Marquise Williams becoming the first Tar Heel to eclipse 10,000 total yards of offense.
One particular mark remains in reach as UNC (11-2) prepares for its matchup with No. 17 Baylor in the Russell Athletic Bowl, and it’s likely the biggest of all: a 12th win.
The Tar Heels entered this season having not won nine games since 1997 and having won 11 games only three times in school history. They now have a chance to become the first team at UNC to win a dozen games in a single season.
“It’s never been done in the history of this program, so, to me, that would be pretty significant,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said earlier this week. “That would be pretty special, especially for this senior class and the legacy that they leave.”
Once UNC accomplished its two primary goals – winning the ACC Coastal Division title and the state championship – its next set of goals following the regular season finale included winning the ACC Championship and its bowl game, which came with the understanding that one more win would be the elusive No. 12.
The Tar Heels lost the ACC title game to No. 1 Clemson, but not the opportunity to set a new win threshold for the program.
“It was our goal going into the ACC Championship Game to get that 12th win and do something that hadn’t been done here before,” senior linebacker Shakeel Rashad said. “And then after the game, we came back here and we said we didn’t get to win the ACC Championship, but we still do have a chance to be the only team to win 12 games, so that’s still a goal of ours. It’s something that we’re really striving for now.”
It’s been a checklist sort of year for the Tar Heels. First UNC team to win 11 straight? Check. First UNC team to go 8-0 in ACC play? Check. Second UNC team to go 7-0 at home? Check.
“We could make a statement as one of the best teams in Carolina history,” senior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer said. “Winning 11 straight, no team’s done that. Winning seven at home, no team’s done that. We have a lot to be proud of, but winning a 12th game would be huge for us.”
Perspective provides depth here as well. A year ago, UNC was mired in locker room dissention and player-coach disconnect on its way to a 6-7 record. The results on the field this fall stemmed from an offseason effort, led by this senior class, determined to rebuild trust and chemistry.
“Everybody has put so much into the season, and to have it go down in history as the first team to win 12 in a season would be huge,” Rashad said. “To have it recognized in that way would put a special stamp on it.”