North Carolina vs Miami, 3:30 PM, ESPNU
The final leg of the three game gauntlet that could effectively clinch the Coastal Division for the Tar Heels. At present UNC still needs a little help from rival Duke down the road. A Pittsburgh combined with a Tar Heel win over Miami would give UNC a two game lead over the two nearest teams with two games left. Carolina would also hold the tiebreaker over Duke and Pitt leaving the Tar Heels playing the final two games with an eye on 11 regular season wins.
First things first. Miami comes to town having found some traction following a 58-0 drubbing at the hands of Clemson which led to the sooner rather than later dismissal of head coach Al Golden. The Hurricanes blew into Durham on Halloween night and got the best of the Blue Devils winning on an eight lateral kickoff return for a touchdown which the ACC later said shouldn't have happened. Miami followed that up with a win over Virginia and has just two ACC losses. A win here could draw Miami closer to potentially winning the division if the Tar Heels were to stumble in one of the two final games and Miami win out.
The question facing UNC continues to be the team's ability to deal with success and bring a consistent effort even after a momentous win the week prior. Last season after the Tar Heels crushed Duke 45-21, UNC laid an egg versus NC State then failed to show up for the bowl game getting ripped by Rutgers. In theory the Coastal Division hanging in the balance and Larry Fedora's insistent on keeping the team focused on just winning the next game should alleviate that concern. This is also a Senior Day game and UNC has gone through Herculean efforts in an attempt to ensure a full stadium for what could be the division winning game. In short, a failure by UNC to come out and continue to play at a high level would be profoundly disappointing.
Miami certainly has the pieces to play a competitive game despite what the betting line favoring UNC at nearly two touchdowns might say. The Tar Heel run defense and pass rush continue to be sources of concern. With a quality QB in Brad Kaaya taking snaps for the Hurricanes, Miami has the capability of matching UNC offensively to some extent.
In that respect the key to this game is the same as it was the previous two contests against Pitt and Duke. Get off to a fast start, punch Miami in the mouth which quick scoring drives and keep it rolling in case the defense gets a little porous. One of the more impressive aspects of the past two games is UNC's ability to charge hard out of the gate and establish control of the game. If the Tar Heels can do that again on Saturday, the words "Coastal Division Champions" might be uttered soon after.
UNC 42 Miami 28