Is it too early to start predicting the 2024 season? Absolutely. We haven't even started Bowl Games, but honestly, other than the playoffs, who cares? The transfer portal free agency has only just begun with over 1,100 athletes looking to find a new home, so within the next few weeks, the landscape of college football will once again look brand new.
For the Tar Heels, we are coming off one of the more disappointing seasons we have had for a long time. Looking at the wins and losses, you may think, "What are you talking about? Eight wins and a bowl appearance is a decent season."
You would be correct, but you have to consider what the ceiling was for the team this season. You could argue that Drake Maye, Omarion Hampton, and Tez Walker are a Top-5 quarterback, running back, and wide receiver trio in the nation. That said, there should be no reason our offense didn't score 21+ points each game, but we didn't against Clemson and NC State. Our offense could have played better against Virginia, but the defense decided to take that weekend and the next weekend against Georgia Tech off.
Over the last four seasons, the Tar Heels have managed to crack into the Top-15, but are quick to lose a game or two, losing that position. Since Brown's return to Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels have looked like a team that could win the ACC Title, and possibly make it to the College Football Playoffs (probably not though, since the committee can't live without the SEC). Yet, the best we can do is a Military Bowl win in an era where Bowl Games come down to who has the least amount of players leaving.
The biggest weakness for the Tar Heels this past season was the defense led by Gene Chizik, who we will not see in Carolina next season, thank God. I've said before that we need to move on past Mack Brown because we have plateaued. I'm officially redacting that statement. Mack Brown needs to stay for recruiting purposes but hire coordinators who can develop players and perform well on the field.
Again, we don't know how teams will look next season right now, but looking at the schedule, the Tar Heels have the POTENTIAL to go undefeated. There are a few challenges, such as Florida State, James Madison, NC State, Wake Forest (who knows how good they will be. They're due for a Top-25 season), and Minnesota, but they are all very winnable games.
That said, the Tar Heels' ceiling for next season is a 12-0 regular season, an ACC Title, and being #5 in the final College Football Playoff Rankings, but a good New Year's Six Bowl Win. Conversely, the Tar Heels have the biggest range from floor to ceiling. The Heels could go 2-10 with wins against Charlotte and NC Central. I mean, even Charlotte can pull a random win like that out of their ass, but it's very unlikely.
Losing to Georgia Tech and Virginia consistently is why the floor is so low. The Tar Heels are consistently inconsistent, and there will always be a strange loss that makes no sense on paper, it just be like that sometimes.
We wish all the best for our Tar Heels. Remember to keep your expectations at the Military or Duke's Mayo Bowl level. Hopefully, we get a decent defensive coordinator to fix that mess. We've got some reloading to do this offseason.