Can UNC make it back to a bowl game next season? Here is a look at their 2019 schedule

North Carolina football coach Mack Brown, who was hired in November, said he plans to win right away next season.

But looking at the schedule, it likely won’t be easy. The ACC released its 2019 football schedules Wednesday and it shows that the Tar Heels will play two Thursday night games next season, both on the road. Eleven of the Tar Heels’ 12 opponents made it to a bowl game last year.

One of UNC’s opponents, Clemson, won the National Championship over Alabama in January, and finished a perfect 15-0.

The only opponent that did not play in a bowl game is Mercer, which is an FCS team.

The Tar Heels finished 2-9 last season, and missed out on a bowl game for the second consecutive year. Can they make it back in 2019?

Here is a look at their 2019 schedule:

Best game

Clemson, Sept. 28

Clemson, which recently won a national championship, will likely be loaded again in 2019. The Tigers are the early favorites to win the national championship again next season. They are expected to return many of their key offensive players, including star freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence.

The Tar Heels and the Tigers haven’t played each other since the 2015 ACC Championship game in Charlotte. Clemson won that one 45-37, and eventually won the national championship that year.

The two teams will play in Chapel Hill at Kenan Memorial Stadium. The last time UNC beat Clemson was on Oct. 9, 2010. Where was the game played? In Chapel Hill at Kenan Memorial Stadium.

Toughest stretch

Wake Forest, App. State, Clemson, Georgia Tech

Any stretch with Clemson in it was going to be the toughest.

But UNC will also face a Wake Forest team that won its bowl game, an App. State team that won 11 games last year, Clemson, and a Georgia Tech team with a new head coach in Geoff Collins who led Temple to an 8-4 record last year.

The Wake Forest game, which will start the stretch, will be on a Thursday night, and the Tar Heels will be coming off a short rest.

Must win

South Carolina, Aug. 31

The Tar Heels have not won a season-opener versus a Power-5 opponent since 1997, which was also Mack Brown’s final year at UNC before he left for Texas.

They are 0-10 in those games since 1997. The perception has become that UNC will lose that game. But the Tar Heels, in Brown’s first year back, have a chance to win.

A win against South Carolina would also help with excitement of the program. It’s the first game of the season, and will likely set the tone for the rest of the year.

The game will be played at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

One to skip

Mercer, Nov. 23

Mercer, like Western Carolina last season, is an FCS opponent that struggled within its own conference. The Bears finished 5-6 last season, which was sixth out of nine teams in the Southern Conference. This game is not expected to be competitive. It should be an easy win for the Tar Heels regardless of how well they perform next season.

UNC’s 2019 football schedule

Aug. 31 - South Carolina (7-6) in Charlotte.

Sept. 7 - Miami (7-6)

Sept. 12 (Thursday) - Wake Forest (7-6)

Sept. 21 - Appalachian State (11-2)

Sept. 28 - Clemson (15-0)*

Oct. 5 - at Georgia Tech (7-6)*

Oct. 12 - off

Oct. 19 - at Virginia Tech (6-7)*

Oct. 26 - Duke (8-5)*

Nov. 2 - Virginia (8-5)*

Nov. 9 - off

Nov. 14 (Thurs.)- at Pittsburgh (7-7)*

Nov. 23 - Mercer (5-6)

Nov. 30 - at N.C. State (9-4)*

(*) - ACC games

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Jonathan M. Alexander has been covering the North Carolina Tar Heels since May 2018. He previously covered Duke basketball and recruiting in the ACC. He is an alumnus of N.C. Central University.
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