For the second time in school history, UNC will host a Thursday night game in Kenan Stadium. It is also the second time the Tar Heels will face the Hurricanes in a night game in Chapel Hill. As was the case then, Miami is ranked in the top ten. Obviously it remains t o be seen if the rest of the evening goes as well for the Tar Heels as it did in 2004.
Miami comes into this game boasting the best passing defense in the country giving up around 141 yards per game. The Hurricanes are 17th in interceptions with nine and 12th in sacks with 18. Miami averages around 2.5 sacks per game. All of this spells out the possibility of a rough night for Bryn Renner and the Tar Heel offense. UNC will be facing a defense that can effectively take way the Tar Heels' offensive strength and exploit what has been a mediocre offensive line. The factors do not point to a easy night in the pocket for Renner or Marquise Williams should he play though the latter is better equipped to avoid being sacked.
If Miami is indeed positioned to hamper UNC's passing game, the Tar Heels will need to look to other options. One will be screen and swing passes to get the ball out of the pocket and hope the receivers can pick up yards after the catch. The other option is to find some semblance of a running game since Miami is ranked 71st in rushing defense. Because of the aforementioned offensive line issues and the lack of any one standout running back, rushing the football so far this season has not done much to move the football. That being said, will the presence of freshman T.J. Logan make a difference? Logan saw his first action ten days ago getting five carries for 25 yards. Logan showed flashes of his speed and abilities as a rusher against a very tough defense. With A.J. Blue struggling without a great offensive line, Romar Morris off and on with injuries and Khris Francis still needing to develop, Logan has a chance to step in and make a difference.
UNC needs a big night on offense from not just one person but across the board. The defense has shown time and time again this season, the opposing team will score. The Tar Heels really need the kind of offensive performance we saw from this team last season to match a potential outburst from the Hurricanes. In addition, UNC's next best hope is for Miami to make its share of mistakes and turn the ball over. UNC is 115th in takeaways and only 92nd in turnover margin. This is a battle the Tar Heels have lost repeatedly on their way to a 1-4 start. Flipping that number could be the key to avoiding 1-5.
In 2004, the win over Miami righted the ship for that season and UNC ultimately ended up in a bowl game. Of course that version of the Tar Heels was 3-4 heading into the game not 1-4. The hill UNC needs to climb to get bowl eligible is tough enough as it is and a loss would complicate it all the more despite the back half of the schedule being less difficult than the first half.
UNC needs this win in the worst possible way or else the season will feel completely lost.
Miami 34 UNC 26