by Adam Lucas, GoHeels.com
1.It feels a little strange to look at a Carolina football schedule and immediately see the Duke game as a season highlight. But that's the way it looks in 2014, as the Tar Heels and Blue Devils will play on Thursday night, Nov. 20, at Wallace Wade Stadium. It's the first true nationwide exposure for that particular rivalry since, well, maybe ever.
In a scheduling quirk, both teams will be operating on short weeks for what should be a key Coastal game. Carolina hosts Pittsburgh on Nov. 15, while the Devils host Virginia Tech that same day.
2.The stretch of five road games in seven weeks through the middle of the season is a tough one. Three of those are against likely top-25 opponents (Clemson, Notre Dame and Miami) and one is against an in-state opponent that defeated the Tar Heels in 2013 (East Carolina). The quality of this particular road schedule is in the same ballpark with the 2001 club, which sandwiched trips to Oklahoma and Texas around a game at Maryland, which just happened to be on its way to winning the league that year. Carolina is 4-4 on the road in the ACC under Larry Fedora.
The schedule overall is formidable. It includes nine 2013 bowl teams and five 2013 bowl winners. Carolina effectively trades a home game with Boston College this season for a road game at Clemson next season, and luck of the draw sent the Tar Heels to South Bend early in the league's rotation with the Irish (Notre Dame won't return that game until at least 2017).
3.Carolina has never closed the season with NC State at Kenan Stadium. The Tar Heels ended the regular season in Raleigh in 1995 and 2009, and in Charlotte against the Wolfpack in 1998, but have never hosted the Pack in a regular season finale. It's a little odd that the move comes just as the UNC-Duke football rivalry is increasing, but it's also a switch that has long been thought would create some buzz at the end of the UNC schedule. It will be interesting to see how the Carolina-State game fits on a weekend that includes lots of high-profile rivalry games, including Alabama-Auburn, Ohio State-Michigan, FSU-Florida and several others. It's a crowded space on the college football calendar.
A side note: it's not always been the case that Carolina and Duke must end the regular season against each other. From 1931 through 1950, the Tar Heels ended every season against Virginia.