CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina hosts Miami tonight in a nationally-televised Thursday night game. This game doesnt quite carry the significance the Tar Heels hoped it might, but a victory would still be plenty significant for UNC.
Before the preview and prediction, some stories you might have missed this week:
-- About whats ailing the Tar Heels, who are off to their worst start since 2007.
--About how UNC is hoping to start fresh tonight against Miami.
--And one about what this game means to a couple South Florida guys who play at UNC.
And now, lets get to it:
North Carolina vs. Miami
Kickoff: 7:30, Kenan Stadium
TV/Radio: ESPN/WTKK 106.1-FM
PPG (UNC/UM): 23.6/45.2
Allowed (UNC/UM ): 31.4/16
ABOUT MIAMI (5-0, 1-0 ACC)
Its like old times again for the Hurricanes, who are back in the top 10 of the Associated Press top 25 and back in the conversation nationally. Miami has been dominant on both sides of the ball through five games, and the Hurricanes are outscoring opponents by an average of nearly 30 points. This is a big play offense. Stephen Morris, Miamis quarterback, ranks among the top 20 nationally in passes longer than 40 yards, with six through five games. Duke Johnson, the sophomore running back, has 18 runs of at least 10 yards, five runs of at least 20 yards and three of those have gone for 40 or more yards. Defensively, the Hurricanes have made their share of plays, too. Theyve forced 16 turnovers tied for seventh nationally and they rank 14th nationally in turnover margin. On the lines, Miami is big and physical and nasty. Four of the five players on the starting offensive line weight at least 315 pounds. All but one of the top five defensive tackles weigh at least 300 pounds. Johnson is among the best running backs in the ACC, if not the nation, and Morris is an adept, experienced quarterback.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (1-4, 0-2)
Simply put, the Tar Heels are reeling. Nobody expected this that UNC would basically be playing for its season at this point. But thats what its come to. An unexpected victory could be just the elixir the Tar Heels need to turn things around. Another loss, and UNC would have to win five of its final six games just to become bowl eligible. The Tar Heels have been bad offensively and worse defensively. There is hope, though, on both sides. Offensively, T.J. Logan, the freshman running back, showed some flashes in his limited action against Virginia Tech. Defensively, UNC actually played well mostly outside of those two long passing plays it allowed against the Hokies. The Tar Heels believe they can build off of what they did well at Virginia Tech. Whether that actually happens remains to be seen. UNC has to find some semblance of a running game. Defensively, it has to limit the big plays. Penalties have hurt the Tar Heels, too. Theyre averaging 67 penalty yards per game, which ranks tied for 106th nationally, and in each of the past three weeks theyve had a touchdown wiped away by a penalty. After sitting out the loss at Virginia Tech with a foot injury, fifth-year senior quarterback Bryn Renner will definitely start tonight, coach Larry Fedora said recently.
THREE KEYS FOR UNC
--Stay in the game and stick around. You really have to wonder about the Tar Heels mental state at this point, and whether theyd be able to handle the adversity of falling behind by couple of touchdowns early. UNC doesnt need a great start or even a particularly good one. But it cant afford to be down 14-0 midway through the first quarter.
--Avoid the meltdown plays on defense. Im cheating here, because I used this for UNCs last game against Virginia Tech. Look, Miami is going to make some big plays. The Hurricanes are that good. So against Miami, the definition of a meltdown play changes. Its not necessarily surrendering a 40-yard pass, because one or two of those are probably coming. But a meltdown would entail, say, allowing a lot of those plays, or making it easier than it should be for Miami.
--Find a rhythm offensively. Easier said than done against Miamis defense, but UNC wont have much of a chance if it plays on offense like it has been. There were some positive signs against Virginia Tech, but Renners return makes the offense less dimensional. He needs to be sharper than hes been all season. Itd help if the Tar Heels figured out a way to run.
Hurricanes are fierce
Morris, Perryman, the Duke
Not as bad as Fran
AND A PREDICTION
Miami 37, UNC 24
See you in the press box.