UNC's Howell: Tar Heels Have to Go Through Clemson

Christopher Hall

As the upcoming 2020 college football season draws closer, the Clemson Tigers look all the part of the team prepared to steamroll their way through another ACC schedule. 

However, North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell is hopeful his Tar Heels can build off of last season's near-miss at home against the Tigers. 

As a true freshman in 2019, Howell emerged as one of the top quarterbacks in the conference and would like to see that momentum carry over into the 2020 campaign as well. With UNC head coach Mack Brown leading the way in his second year since returning to the program and the Tar Heels having the fourth-ranked 2021 recruiting class currently, the future of the program appears to as bright as the Carolina blue sky. 

But for UNC to take the next big step, it must find a way to dethrone Clemson as the Tigers set their sights on a sixth straight ACC Championship victory this December. 

In an interview with XL Primetime, Howell acknowledged the tough Clemson roadblock ahead that stands in the way of bringing a conference title back to Chapel Hill for the first time since 1980. And while he acknowledges the "Clemson, then everyone else" narrative in the ACC is warranted, he's eager for the challenge. 

“I think the past couple years, that’s been the truth,” Howell said. “It’s some big competition for the past couple of years. We definitely know the challenge ahead of us. Everyone in the ACC is chasing Clemson. We know that Clemson is advantaged in the ACC. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing, put out the best team we can and give Clemson everything we got. We know Clemson is the team we have to beat if we ever want to win a championship.”

In 2019, Howell tossed for 3,641 yards for a total of 38 touchdowns while only throwing seven interceptions to earn a spot on the third-team All-ACC squad. Howell also made several All-Freshman teams for 247 Sports, FWAA and Pro Football Focus.

Against the Tigers last season in Chapel Hill, Howell was 15-of-27 for 244 yards and two touchdowns. A late Tar Heel touchdown pulled UNC within one point but a go-ahead two-point conversion failed and the Tigers held on for the win, 21-20. 

Clemson and UNC are not scheduled to meet during the regular season of 2020 nor will they have a regular-season meeting until after 2024. However, Howell hopes for a rematch date with the Tigers in the ACC championship game Dec. 5 at Charlotte's Bank of American Stadium.