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Opt-outs have become a normal part of the 2020-21 college football season, but they aren’t easy to overcome. We have seen that at least twice already this season. Once with preseason opt-outs at LSU, and then again with Florida in the Cotton Bowl on Wednesday.
The Gators serve as the better example, however, as they lost 55-20 to Oklahoma. Part of that lopsided defeat was due to the losses of star players such as Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney, Trevon Grimes and Ventrell Miller.
Now, we will get to see North Carolina try to overcome the loss of several key offensive players in the Orange Bowl. The team’s top two running backs, Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, have both declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
The two have been outstanding, which is reflected by the numbers.
- Carter: 1,245 rushing yards, 267 receiving yards, 11 total TDs, 7.98 YPC
- Williams: 1,140 rushing yards, 305 receiving yards 22 total TDs, 7.26 YPC
It isn’t just the rushing duo, however. The team’s leading receiver over the last two seasons, Dyami Brown, has also opted out. Over the last two years, he’s combined for 2,133 yards and 20 touchdowns with back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
That’s a lot of lost offensive production.
North Carolina’s opponent in the Orange Bowl, Texas A&M, fields a defense that could cause the Tar Heels some issues. The Aggies rank No. 11 in total defense (316.6 yards allowed per game), and their strength comes from stopping the run (No. 2, 92.22 rushing yards allowed).
That could force the Tar Heels to be one-dimensional. With sophomore Sam Howell at quarterback, it’s a less than ideal situation — especially with Howell’s top weapon gone too.
Texas A&M doesn’t have an outstanding offense, but it’s been good enough and will be facing an exploitable North Carolina defense. The hope will be that this combination doesn’t result in a Florida-like loss for Mack Brown’s squad.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.