Jim Hawkins/Inside Carolina

Inside Carolina Staff Chat: Must Win

Inside Carolina's staff convened for a free-for-all chat this week heading into UNC's regular season finale against N.C. State.

Buck Sanders - Welcome to the "Hate Week" edition of IC Staff Chat as UNC gets ready to take on NC State in Kenan on Friday.  Let's start with the importance of this game. Do we all agree that anything less than a win and this season will be viewed as a disappointment? Will it be anyway?

Mike Ingersoll - I would have to agree with that, and I think that's also a reflection of the increased expectations in Chapel Hill, which is absolutely wonderful that we have them - realistic or not.

E.J. Wilson - I agree as well. We can't lose to both of our in-state rivals in the same season...especially with us being the better team on paper. Could also negatively affect recruiting.

Mike Ingersoll - Yeah E.J., that was a great point you brought up in our little webcast last night.

Buck Sanders - I don't think a single one of us predicted a season of better than 10-2. And none of us got the wins and losses right.

Mike Ingersoll - No, I absolutely thought that 10-2 was the ceiling for the season, and 10-3 was very realistic and we still have a chance to get there as long as we beat State.

Tommy Ashley - Must win for program. Sun will come up Saturday regardless, but program ascension will take a hit with a loss.

Greg Barnes - I think there’s two perspectives that need to be taken into account. At the macro level, an 8-4 season is a part of a continued positive trajectory for the program, and it’s something Fedora can build on. Possibly 20 wins in two seasons? But at the micro level, losses to Duke and NCSU would be hard for the fan base to accept.

Dijana Kunovac - Yes, I agree with Greg - multiple storylines here and while not having the season that everyone expected is one thing, losing to both in-state rivals is hurtful on a different level.

Tommy Ashley - You can't sell program on rise with three losses to teams you should have whipped, IMO.  In recruiting I mean. Or to fanbase for that matter.

Greg Barnes - Sure you can. Recruits see overall records more than individual game results.

Buck Sanders - Do we fail to see the forest for the trees though Tommy? There are very few teams, nationally, that have not lost to teams they should have beaten, including a few probably headed to the CFP.

Tommy Ashley - Tell me any major program that's had a good season in which they lost to both instate rivals.

Mike Ingersoll - Battle Royale! Average Joe's are you ready? Globo gym are you ready?  Dodgeball!

Buck Sanders - Did not say that. But is Ohio State better than Penn State? Is Clemson better than Pitt? Doesn't everyone (eventually) lose to a team they should have beaten?

Greg Barnes - How many major programs have two instate rivals?

Tommy Ashley - Florida schools.

Dijana Kunovac - Eh, does the in-state part have to be part of the rivalry thing? Because if UGA loses to UF AND GT .... yeah, it's a big deal. And yep, Florida schools.

Mike Ingersoll - The Dakotas.

Tommy Ashley - California schools. And right, DK.

Dijana Kunovac - Texas?

Buck Sanders - Don't get me wrong, I absolutely believe UNC has to beat NC State on Friday if they hope to avoid the "step back" narratives.

Tommy Ashley - If Carolina was 10-2 going into ACCCG with losses to State and Duke, then I'd hear you.  But they aren't.

Dijana Kunovac - It's not just a record thing, it's a pride thing for these players and this fan base. That's what a rivalry is about.

Mike Ingersoll - This State game is a lot like the Duke game in terms of the point Tommy made, which was that if your program is going to turn the corner you have to win games like this in high-pressure situations. Now that doesn't downplay the fact that every single week is a high-pressure situation, but the pressure only mounts and gets even worse the better the program is and the higher the expectations. So on that front, I agree with both Tommy and Buck, but Tommy's comment a few weeks ago after the Duke game about that being a game you have to win in order to turn the corner I think is a very valid one and applies this week too.

Greg Barnes - But don’t fans need to understand the value of shared experiences? The Heels got up 14-0 on Duke, thought they were going to coast and stumbled. Fedora and the players have admitted that. That’s a learning experience that will stick for years to come, and serves as a brick in the foundation.

Tommy Ashley - Didn't we say that after Georgia, Greg?

Greg Barnes - Tommy, maybe to an extent, but UNC thought UGA was the real deal at the time.

Dijana Kunovac - But do you think fans look at it that rationally Greg?

Greg Barnes - No, Dijana, but I’m trying real hard to fight the good fight.

Dijana Kunovac - Hahaha, for the record, I agree with you!

Buck Sanders - Greg is trying to be the antidote to Tommy.

Tommy Ashley - Barnes sipping from a coconut on the shores of Maui while we bicker about Duke and State. Someone is winning in life. Move it along Col. Sanders!

Buck Sanders - I don't know if fans think that way at all. Right now all they know is that UNC lost to Duke, a team that UNC has owned over the years. Different question: Will an NC State win take that bad taste (the Duke loss) out of their mouths?

Mike Ingersoll - There was so much riding on that Duke game I think that the sting of that loss will stick around for a while, but an NC State win mitigates any shortcomings of any season with this program.

Dijana Kunovac - Ehhh,  I don't think it mitigates ANY shortcomings from a season. Sure it's nice but that's a bit of a stretch.

E.J. Wilson - I think that it will help get that taste out of their mouths but as you've mentioned we have traditionally owned them and the taste won't be completely gone until we beat them again.

Tommy Ashley - Beating State will help but if Carolina misses ACCCG and big bowl because of Duke loss....folks won't forget.

E.J. Wilson - I think the Duke loss stung a little bit more because we had a chance to control our own destiny in regards to the ACCCG.

Tommy Ashley - It'll be like that 1996 game that's never to be mentioned.

Buck Sanders - I agree. We'll be talking about the Duke loss this year for a long, long, time.

Greg Barnes - If Duke loses at Miami, it finishes the ACC season at 1-7. A win over NCSU doesn’t wipe that one clean. Like E.J. said, there was more riding on that Duke game than just the rivalry bragging rights.

Dijana Kunovac - People tend to go with their emotions and NC State brings out some emotions to say the least...

Mike Ingersoll - Which is the biggest loss in the recent history of Carolina football? South Carolina 2015 or Duke 2016?

E.J. Wilson - Duke 2016.

Greg Barnes - If VT beats UVa, I’d have to go Duke 2016.

Buck Sanders - Okay, do we even need to talk about the keys to this game?

Tommy Ashley - Key to Friday. Be the bully. Not the bullied.

Mike Ingersoll - Stop the run on D, or at least impede it, and third down conversions on offense. To that effect you can say no first down penalties getting us behind the chains. If we control the clock and control the down and distance the way we're supposed to I think things will be OK. Stay on schedule and aggravate their run game.

E.J. Wilson - Play tough and disciplined defense and don't turn the ball over on offense and this game is ours.

Mike Ingersoll - State has a really solid defensive line also so pass protection will be a key.

Greg Barnes - The UNC upperclassmen remember the 2014 Senior Day beatdown. I expect them to be ready to play, which is the key here. Ryan Finley has struggled in ACC play, so I don’t think NCSU has the ammo to match UNC.

Tommy Ashley -  My key up higher sums this game up.  Period.

Dijana Kunovac - I always feel like with this game the matchups end up not even mattering.

Mike Ingersoll - I agree D, this is a rivalry game so most of the metrics end up going out the window. Just like we saw with Duke, rivalry games end up being free-for-alls.

Buck Sanders - That is a good point, D.

Greg Barnes - The fact Doeren needs a win for his job and for a bowl game means the Pack will be fired up, per usual.

Dijana Kunovac - Ah, a VERY good point Greg.

Buck Sanders - Does anyone think Doeren is any danger if he loses this game? 

Tommy Ashley - Of course Buck, I mean Les Miles is already building a house in Wake County, right?

Greg Barnes - Maybe not for this year, Buck, but wins over UNC always help boost a NCSU coach’s resume.

Buck Sanders - Oh, sure. I meant this year. Everyone says he gets a pass this year because of the AD situation.

Mike Ingersoll - DD should be back in ‘17. If he's out, who does State think they get? Take a look at their last few head coaches, the only accomplished one was Tom O'Brien, everyone else was just a coordinator or a low-level guy. It's not like they're going to get Les Miles in there, or Charlie Strong to come lead that program. Right now they need to give Dave his chance and see what he can do with one full recruiting class seeing them through there.

Buck Sanders - Does anyone other than me think that Mitch Trubisky might feast on the NC State secondary this game?

Mike Ingersoll - Mitch took some chances last week against the Citadel that seemed a little uncharacteristic, being a little aggressive with some throws that I haven't seen him make earlier this year, or maybe I just haven't been paying enough attention. Hopefully, he got that out of his system and he gets back to the basics this week. If so, I always think Mitch is dangerous no matter who he's playing.

Tommy Ashley - I hope it's his last game in Kenan because if it is, those dividends from a high NFL pick will pay off well for the program.

Buck Sanders - At this point I think he is auditioning for the potential to be the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Mike Ingersoll - Let's just hope for his sake he doesn't play so well that he ends up in Cleveland. That place is a dumpster fire. 

Dijana Kunovac - Oh God no, not Cleveland. It's where quarterbacks go to die.

Tommy Ashley - He wants to go to Cleveland, no?

Buck Sanders - It's weird, but after reading up on Cleveland, their offensive line is pretty good. Bring in a couple of Frisbee-catching dogs, give him some time, who knows?

Mike Ingersoll - I would say this about Cleveland, having met Hue Jackson and watch the way that he coaches, I think Hue is a great coach and could do really good things with Mitch as long as the pieces around him are assembled properly.

Greg Barnes - Trubisky is a true Ohio son, so I imagine he would love the prospect of playing for the Browns. Big year for him with the Cavs and Indians.

Mike Ingersoll - I see the Browns taking a defensive end like Myles Garrett out of Texas A&M with the number one overall pick, but they also have a second pick in the first round that I could see them using on either Mitch if he is still available and doesn't go to Chicago like he's projected at number three in some polls, or grabbing an offensive lineman and trying to grab a quarterback of value in the second round, which also could end up being Mitch. 

Greg Barnes - E.J. and Mike, if you were in line for guaranteed millions from the NFL after your junior year, would you have thought twice about returning to school?

Mike Ingersoll - I would have been gone Greg. And having lived it, and E.J. will tell you the same thing, Mitch absolutely should leave if the money is there. Don't pull a Jake Locker and lose the money for the sake of staying in school.

E.J. Wilson - It is hard for me to say because I honestly enjoyed my time at Carolina more so than my time in the NFL. But then again if I had the chance to make millions doing what I loved to do I think I would leave.

Tommy Ashley - I'd drop out of high school for millions. Toss in you are playing a game in which your next play could be your last?!?  He better go.

Buck Sanders - Okay, roll up your sleeves, and let's get the predictions in - no wimping out, D.

Dijana Kunovac - DAGGUMMIT.

Tommy Ashley - 34-32.

Greg Barnes - I’ve been on the money all year long with these predictions, so I’ll say 31-24 Heels.

E.J. Wilson - 35-17, Heels of course!

Mike Ingersoll - Assuming this team will find a way to avoid the Senior Day debacle that I had to deal with, I see Carolina pulling it out but narrowly, let's say six point difference.

Dijana Kunovac - Ok, here's what I'm gonna do - some reverse psychology. I'm gonna say NCSU wins 34-28 (because that way UNC is gonna win because I'm always wrong).

Buck Sanders - You've made me feel much better about UNC's chances, D. In fact, again risking my streak, I think E.J. is pretty much on it. I second his 35-17 prediction.

Mike Ingersoll - IT'S HATE WEEK BABY!!!! #HateState and #UNCvsNCSUcks should be trending online by noon tomorrow. You saw it here first folks.

Buck Sanders - Alright, we'll wrap it here. Hard to believe the regular season is coming to a close. Thanks everyone, and we'll be back next week for more IC Staff chat.


The Participants
Tommy Ashley - Co-host of the Inside Carolina podcast and contributor since 1998.
Greg Barnes - Inside Carolina's highly esteemed beat writer since 2007.
Mike Ingersoll - Former UNC offensive lineman ('07-10), current UNC law student and Inside Carolina analyst.
Dijana Kunovac - Video production coordinator at Inside Carolina from 2011-15, now back on part-time basis.
Buck Sanders - Daily football columnist and Inside Carolina's president since 2000.
Jason Staples - Former FSU WR, now QB coach with a PhD from UNC and Inside Carolina's Xs and Os analyst since 2013.


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