And welcome to Clemson, folks, where I snapped that picture above a while back, before walking up – and up – the hill and into the press box. North Carolina and Clemson will play here before long in what's an important (aren't they all?) game for both teams.
The Tigers are trying to bounce back from that painful defeat at No. 1 Florida State last week, and the Tar Heels, meanwhile, are trying to rebound from what was the worst defensive performance in school history last week in that 70-41 loss at East Carolina.
Some things to watch:
How UNC comes out and starts this game today should tell us a lot about whether there's a hangover after the embarrassing performance last week. Do the Tar Heels come out with a lot of energy? Are they lethargic? Does the defense picked up where it left off, allowing big play after big play? Does the offense look pensive and timid? UNC doesn't have to win tonight to prove that it has recovered from the ECU game. But the Tar Heels have to show some heart, and show it early on.
This might be the best defensive line UNC faces this season and it comes at a bad time, with UNC missing two starters – right guard Landon Turner and right tackle Jon Heck – on its offensive line. Even if they were at full strength it would have been a challenge for the Tar Heels to play well against Clemson's defensive line. As it is, though, it looks like an impossible task. UNC is at a huge disadvantage up front on offense, but the Tar Heels have to find a way to make it respectable up there.
Less than a full month into his first season in college, Watson is making his first start. He played well in the defeat at Florida State last week, and his upside is clearly greater than that of Cole Stoudt, a senior who entered the season as a starter. But there's a reason why coaches are apprehensive about starting freshman quarterbacks. They're unproven and, and the thought goes, are mistake prone. If the Tar Heels are going to have a chance, they're going to have to make things difficult for Watson.
We're already 25 percent of the way through the season, and it has been a quiet season for a lot of guys we thought might have big years: Ryan Switzer, Bug Howard, Quinshad Davis, T.J. Logan, Elijah Hood. And on down the list. A lot of UNC's issues can be traced to the struggles on the offensive line but, eventually, the Tar Heels' playmakers are eventually going to have to overcome those things and make something happen. Now would be as a good of a time as any to get going.
Clemson 44, UNC 20