Earliest ever meeting with Duke highlights UNCs 2017 football schedule

It will be the first time in the 102-game history of the battle for the Victory Bell that the game will be played in the month of Septembe

Eamon Queeney—The North State Journal
UNC coach Larry Fedora is high on several true freshman vying for immediate playing time this season (Photo by Eamon Queeney/The North State Journal)

The earliest meeting ever against rival Duke highlights North Carolina’s 2017 football schedule that was announced Tuesday by the ACC. The Tar Heels and Blue Devils will stage their annual battle for the Victory Bell on Sept. 23 at Kenan Stadium. It will be the first time in the 102-game history of the matchup that it has ever been held in the month of September. The earliest previous meeting between the neighboring teams came on Oct 10, in 1925. The Duke game will be part of an early test for UNC, as it looks to rebuild its offense after losing starting quarterback Mitch Trubisky, its top two rushers, three best wide receivers and two offensive linemen. But at least it’s a test that will be administered mostly on familiar territory before the Tar Heels face what figures to be the toughest road games on their schedule. Coach Larry Fedora’s team will play their first two games next season and five of their first seven at Kenan Stadium. The 2017 schedule has UNC opening at home on Sept. 9 against California — a team coming off a 5-7 record that will be playing its first game under a new coaching staff — before jumping right into ACC play the following week against Louisville and Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. The Tar Heels will then travel to Old Dominion before returning home to play Duke on Sept. 23. It will be their earliest meeting ever with the Blue Devils and the first time the rivalry game will be played in the month of September. The earliest previous game in the 101 previous renewals came in 1925, when it fell on Oct. 10. After another road trip to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech on Sept. 30, UNC will start October with back-to-back home games against Notre Dame and Virginia. Whether that front-loaded schedule will be enough to allow the Tar Heels’ offense to establish an identity and gain confidence with either sophomore Nathan Elliott or highly touted redshirt freshman Chazz Surratt under center is yet to be seen. It will need to be, considering the difficult stretch they’ll face heading into the second half of the season. It’s a three-game stretch against ACC Coastal Division rivals that begins with a trip to Virginia Tech on Oct. 21, followed by a home date with Miami and a Thursday night contest at Pittsburgh, with an open date sandwiched in between on Nov. 4. The schedule wraps up with a home game against Western Carolina on Nov. 18 and a Thanksgiving weekend finale at NC State on Nov. 25. Unlike last year, all of the Tar Heels’ 2017 home games will be played on Saturdays. Here is the entire UNC schedule:Sept. 2 CALIFORNIASept. 9 LOUISVILLESept. 16 at Old Dominion Sept. 23 DUKE Sept. 30 at Georgia Tech Oct. 7 NOTRE DAME Oct. 14 VIRGINIA Oct. 21 at Virginia Tech Oct. 28 MIAMI Nov. 4 OPEN Nov. 9 at Pittsburgh (Thu.) Nov. 18 WESTERN CAROLINA Nov. 25 at NC State