9. North Carolina vs. Auburn
Date: Saturday, Sept. 12 – Week 2 (at Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Atlanta, GA)
To say that not much was expected from Mack Brown and the North Carolina Tar Heels in 2019 as the legendary head coach returned to Chapel Hill would be, to put it mildly. They appeared to be a lock to finish below .500 for the season and to be a proverbial whipping boy in the ACC. Instead, they were one of the fiercest competitors in all of college football, finishing 7-6 with a 4-4 record in the conference and playing Clemson closer than any ACC opponent by a wide margin.
It’s clear that the future is bright for the Tar Heels thanks to Brown and rising true sophomore quarterback Sam Howell. And as North Carolina returns a good number of key starters from last year’s team and has a top-20 ranked recruiting class incoming, there’s good reason to believe that the Tar Heels could be a sleeper out of the ACC in the 2020 campaign.
We’ll see just how good the Tar Heels can be early on in the year, though, as they meet up in Atlanta with the Auburn Tigers. Armed with their own vaunted rising true sophomore quarterback, Bo Nix, Gus Malzahn’s team will have to deal with a number of key defensive departures but have to believe that, with the progression of Nix, their offense can make up for what they’ve lost on the other side of the ball.
While this might be the most name-brand game out of the 13 contests featured here, it’s one that should be exceptionally enjoyable for fans. Two teams with young quarterbacks will have the opportunity to prove themselves early on in the year, which should make for must-see TV.