Where: Dolphin Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
When: Saturday, September 27th, Noon
Records: UNC 2-1, 0-1 ACC; Miami 2-1, 0-0 ACC
The Sexton-Paulus Era begins. Or is it Paulus-Sexton?
Generally speaking, this was probably a game you sort of figured UNC would drop. Had the Heels beaten Virginia Tech, the possibility of losing here would be less painful in terms of Coastal Division viability. However, UNC cannot afford to have two losses both against teams that will likely not lose more than twice themselves meaning any tiebreakers goes against the Heels. In this respect UNC must win this game. Not a favorable situation given all that has happened in the past week.
The primary media talking point for this game has and will be the quarterback situation at UNC. Rightfully so. The injury to TJ Yates sets the UNC offense back forcing Butch Davis to lean on an unproven commodity in Mike Paulus or Cam Sexton who is viewed by many UNC fans as damaged goods. Couple this with a suspect running game and you have plenty of questions as to how UNC intends to score points. Miami gets a great deal of credit for slowing Florida down for most of their matchup with the Gators. It is assumed that a Tar Heel team with issues at QB and running the ball will find the points scarce. And I cannot really argue with that.
So given the potential offensive issues, UNC will lean heavily on their defense to make plays and the special teams to come up with points. Brandon Tate has not gone the distance on a kick return since the opener so I suspect he is due one. And the defense has played extremely well in the past two games both in terms of their ability to stop an opposing offense from posting points as well as their general intensity. The only pitfall is avoiding getting worn down as was the case against Virginia Tech. As long as they hold up, the defense gives UNC a fighting chance if the offense can muster something decent with a big special teams play or two. You also have the Butch Davis vs protege Randy Shannon aspect which is really canceled out by home field advantage.
As much as I would like to think UNC can get enough things to go right here, something tells me the Miami defense will be a serious obstacle, perhaps even creating some easy chances for the offense which will in turn do just enough. In other words, UNC is facing some tough odds and in this instance I think will be a tad short as they adjustment to the new QB situation serves as a kind of restraint. Then again I would love to be wrong.
Miami 21 UNC 14