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Game Preview: UNC at Miami

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina at Miami, 12:30 PM, ACC Network

UNC takes a two game winning streak to Miami and controlling its own destiny for winning the Coastal Division. Yes, that statement still sounds really weird and no the odd are probably nowhere in UNC's favor of doing much in the next four games but get to six wins. Still, the division title is still on the table and this is the Coastal Division of the ACC so UNC probably has as much chance of squeaking through as anyone else.

In the context of just this game, the Tar Heels face a tall order. Miami has a capable offense and a running back that can punish UNC's rather porous defense on first and second down to keep the Hurricanes on schedule and moving the chains. Miami's offensive production per play is on the same level as what Georgia Tech produces except with more balance. Duke Johnson establishes an excellent running game which makes things easier for Bran Kaaya in the passing game. Kaaya, a freshman, had a rough start to the season throwing seven interceptions in his first our games. In the last four games, Kaaya has thrown just two picks and both of those came in a loss to Georgia Tech. Kaaya is also coming off his worst game of the season. Against Virginia Tech Kaaya was just 7-16 for 92 yards and one touchdown. The Hokies pass defense was likely a factor here whereas UNC's secondary may permit Kaaya to have his best game of the season.

It is a given Miami is going to put up points and if there are issues getting stops or forcing turnovers against Miami, the offense will be called upon to post a big number on the scoreboard to offset the defensive efficiency. Much like last week, UNC will be facing a tough defense that will complicate the Tar Heels' ability to match Miami score for score. UNC has had just two games this season with less than five yards per play, 4.76 against Liberty and 4.89 against Virginia Tech. Miami has allowed just two games where the opposing offense averaged more than five yards per play. There is a strength vs strength element to this. Miami's defense is efficient in stopping both the run and the pass making it tougher to get a balanced offensive effort.

The offense struggled in the last game against Virginia but that was owed in part to the Cavaliers pressuring Williams. After last week, protecting Williams is a priority both for his health and for the offense. The Hurricanes are just seventh in the ACC in sacks and 13th in tackles for a loss. Less pressure on Williams could give him more time to operate and exploit space on pass plays to run the ball. Also of note, Miami only has seven interceptions on the season with three of those coming against Cincinnati and two others versus Duke. While Miami's passing defense is effective in limiting yardage, there should be plenty of opportunity for Williams to use his multiple receiving targets to move the ball against Miami. UNC's running game, outside of Williams, hit or miss. Elijah Hood is doubtful for this game so it will be wait and see on whether T.J. Logan or Romar Morris can produce yards.

Miami 44 UNC 35