The third season of the Butch Davis era at North Carolina officially kicks off at 6:00 pm Saturday, as the Tar Heels face off against The Citadel in Kenan Stadium.
For North Carolina, this is the first time since the 1998 season that the Tar Heels enter a season ranked in the Top 25---No. 20 in the USA Today poll and No. 21 in the Associated Press poll.
In light of the national respect the Tar Heels are getting, along with a renewed spirit from fans, there seems to be an air of confidence in Chapel Hill that this could be a season that North Carolina turns a corner and returns to prominence in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
It all begins against a Bulldogs squad coming off a 4-8 season that will be entering Tar Heel country as decided underdogs---although they have some weapons, including All-American wide receiver Andre Roberts and nine other starters on offense.
For a North Carolina team returning nine defensive starters and a healthy T.J. Yates at quarterback, Saturday night's challenge will be to focus on themselves---which Coach Davis indicated was one of the top themes of training camp---while not underestimating The Citadel.
It will be interesting to see how much, if at all, the Tar Heels open their playbook in terms of passing to the running backs, tight ends, and H-backs, as it's expected that the UNC coaches will hold some things back offensively in anticipation of a game next week at Connecticut.
Defensively, the Tar Heels will be rolling plenty of players into the rotation, especially along the defensive line and in the secondary.
Saturday is the first opportunity for UNC to showcase it's ultra-fast starting linebacking corps of Zach Brown, Quan Sturdivant, and Bruce Carter, while the defensive backs will be looking to pick up from where they left off last year in terms of forcing turnovers.
It will also be the first start as Tar Heels for several players, including Ingersoll, Cooper, Adams, and Brown.
If the game gets out-of-hand on the scoreboard as many are predicting, it would obviously allow the coaches the luxury of getting most of the team's second and even third-team players the opportunity for game repetitions.
However, Coach Davis and the rest of the UNC staff have been quick to point out that they're not instantly assuming it will be a blowout, and they expect a fierce challenge from a veteran Citadel squad.
The great news is that after a month of practice and a great deal of talking about it, the waiting is finally over for the players, the coaches, and the fans.
It's finally time for some football in Chapel Hill.