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Tar Heels’ first home football game in 2018 will be against the ‘national champions’

UNC coach Larry Fedora will open his seventh season with the Tar Heels on the road on Sept. 1 at California. UNC will host six home games in 2018.
UNC coach Larry Fedora will open his seventh season with the Tar Heels on the road on Sept. 1 at California. UNC will host six home games in 2018. cseward@newsobserver.com

North Carolina will open its home schedule against the national champions.

Well, the national champions according to the Florida state legislature and the Central Florida athletic department. UCF, the only unbeaten team in the FBS in 2017, kicks off the Tar Heels’ 2018 home schedule on Sept. 15.

Larry Fedora’s seventh team will look to rebound from a 3-9 season with six home games, a first ever ACC matchup with Syracuse and pair of games with American Athletic Conference teams.

The Tar Heels will go to Syracuse (Oct. 20) for the first time since the Orange joined the ACC in 2013. They will also travel to East Carolina (Sept. 8) for the first time since the 2014 season. UNC has given up 125 points in its past two meetings (both losses) with the Pirates.

The Heels open the season with their first trip to California on Sept. 1.

Best game

Virginia Tech, Oct. 13

There’s always something cooking between these two. The Tar Heels ruined Frank Beamer’s Lane Stadium finale in 2015, there was the hurricane game won by the Hokies in 2016 and then last year it was a 59-7 whitewashing by the Hokies in Blacksburg, Va.

The Heels certainly would like to redeem themselves for that effort when the Hokies visit Kenan Stadium. Fedora has a 1-2 mark in Chapel Hill against the Hokies.

Toughest stretch

Five of the first eight games are on the road and there’s not a “gimme” in sight. The Heels lost to Cal last year and three of the other four teams it played in 2017 during that eight-game segment.

The Thursday night trip to Miami comes only five days after a home game with Pitt but it does leave some extra prep time of Virginia Tech.

Must win

Duke, Nov. 10

The Tar Heels have lost the past two in the “Victory Bell” rivalry with their Triangle neighbors. They haven’t lost three straight to Duke only once (1987 through ’89) since the 1950s.

The Heels have won 12 of the past 14 meetings in Durham.

One to skip

Western Carolina, Nov. 17

The Tar Heels followed the SEC lead of playing a lower division foe the week before a rivalry game in 2016. They will again in 2018.

Fedora’s 7-0 against FCS opponents, including a 65-10 shellacking of the Catamounts last season. But the Heels are 0-2 against the Wolfpack since going to the “take a break” scheduling strategy.

Joe Giglio: 919-829-8938, @jwgiglio

UNC schedule

Sept. 1

at California

Sept. 8

at East Carolina

Sept. 15

Central Florida

Sept. 22

Pittsburgh

Sept. 27

at Miami

Oct. 6

OPEN

Oct. 13

Virginia Tech

Oct. 20

at Syracuse

Oct. 27

at Virginia

Nov. 3

Georgia Tech

Nov. 10

at Duke

Nov. 17

Western Carolina

Nov. 24

N.C. State

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