Fourth & Long

David Friedman

Just when I was starting to dream big about my team, I got a reality check. If you have a favorite college football team not named Alabama, Ohio State or Clemson, then you might need the same reality check.

I touched last week on the impressive showing my beloved Tar Heels had in the Orange Bowl and how well I thought they competed for three quarters against a top five team. Then I saw Alabama whoop Ohio State in the National Championship game and was reminded of the difference between a top five team and a top five program.

I feel like UNC could be a season or two away from one. They are much further away from the other.

Carolina had a Heisman hopeful at quarterback, an experienced offensive line, two receivers and two running backs that will be drafted in a few months and a defense led by one of the best linebackers in the country. They had the talent within their starting 22 to compete against almost anybody in the country...for three quarters.

A look back at the North Carolina games against Texas A&M and Notre Dame show the ability for the Tar Heels to “hang” with these teams for awhile.

When depth becomes most valuable though – in the fourth quarter when players are tired, there have been injuries and attrition has played its part – it’s the next 22 players that make all the difference.

Therein lies the difference between a top five team and a top five program, depth and the ability to “reload” talent every year.

Continued success allows for good teams to compile talent and compete against the best. Consistent excellence allows great teams to pick from only the best recruits and substitute at every position without much, if any, talent drop off.

All good teams have the “next man up” mentality, but it’s only the best programs that consistently have a “next man” available that’s as good as the first. This apparently doesn’t only apply to players.

I read just this morning that while Alabama is losing offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to Texas, they are expected to hire former Houston Texans Head Coach Bill O’Brien to replace him.

The cupboards are never bare in Tuscaloosa.

David Friedman is a longtime sports writer and lifelong believer that BLM. David can be reached via e-mail at

Thadd White is Editor of the Bertie Ledger-Advance and can be reached via email at