This is going to be a good one. After a heartbreaking loss to arch in-state rival Florida State last week, the Miami Hurricanes are looking for some redemption against the Heels. Oh yeah, and speaking of redemption, remember that 59-21 beatdown that Carolina put to the U in Kenan last year? This might be a new Miami team with a new head coach and a rejuvenated defense, but they surely haven't forgotten about that one. As far as Carolina, I'm sure they are itching to get back on the field after their worst performance of the year by a long shot. Playing in the state of Florida has been pretty good recently, so we’ll see if UNC can keep it rolling in Hard Rock Stadium on Saturday.
To start the season, the Miami Hurricanes made it 240 straight minutes of football without trailing by a single point. They made it 42 more on Saturday, until finally FSU’s Kermit Whitfield caught a touchdown pass from Deondre Francois to put the Canes behind. That being said, Miami had not exactly been tested up until their clash with #23 Florida State. Crazy how they made it into the Top 10 by beating Florida A&M, FAU, App State, and 3-3 Georgia Tech...but maybe that’s a conversation for another day. Anyway, the U was not used to playing from behind. They responded well by scoring a potential game-tying touchdown with 1:38 to go. After watching this game in its entirety (sort of), I can tell you this: Carolina can beat Miami. And I’ll tell you how.
1. Disrupt the Quarterback
Junior quarterback Brad Kaaya suffered a number of nasty hits on Saturday against the Noles. As a result, the Miami Herald reported that Kaaya has been sitting out of his main practice regimen at the start of this week to rest his shoulder. He should play on Saturday, but should he not, back up Malik Rosier will take over the duties. He’s appeared in four games with one rushing touchdown. Regardless of who plays, the Carolina defense will have to bring some heat. Kaaya has a really strong arm and loves to stand tall in the pocket. Most of the time that works for him. Against the Seminoles, he delivered some quality throws over the middle in the midst of a collapsing pocket. However, he thrives when he’s in a rhythm. Therefore, if Carolina can flush him out of the tackle box, maybe they can disrupt that 64.6 completion percentage he’s got going.
One more thing to note: the UNC defense does not have an interception yet this season. It wasn't even a factor in any game the Heels had played until Mitch Trubisky threw his first against Virginia Tech. Kaaya has thrown four picks so far this season, let’s get that number up to five on Saturday. Or six. Or 10.
2. Shake and Bake the Miami Secondary, and Keep the Crowd Quiet
The broadcast crew for the FSU-Miami were commenting on the Canes’ defense, and how energized they looked. In a program famous for toughness and tenacity, Miami will want to build on their progress against Carolina. The Miami defense blitzed a lot against FSU, leaving the receivers in single coverage. They may hold back a little bit against Trubisky, who will be unloading a football that better be as dry as the desert. However if not, with guys like Switzer, Hollins, and Howard downfield, Mitch will need to get back to original form and be effective in the passing game.
Miami fans love get rowdy and loud. Remember when things started to unravel for the Heels in the Georgia dome, and the crowd noise started to be a huge factor before the eventual safety? That cannot happen again. A timid offense, penalties, and big plays on defense feed this crowd, and some passionate Canes fans would love to mess with the UNC offense. Trubisky and company will look to get in a rhythm early, and move the ball to take the home crowd out of the equation (to a certain extent.)
3. Slow Down the Up-Tempo and RPO
Brad Kaaya and the Miami offense love to play fast. The UNC defense is as well equipped as anyone to deal with this style of play, because our offense plays the same way. In first team vs. first team drills, the Carolina D has been seeing up-tempo offenses ever since Larry Fedora stepped foot on Navy Field. The Heels should definitely be used to hurrying to the line and getting the assignments sorted out before the snap.
The Canes also love to run the run/pass option with Brad Kaaya and the Miami backs. With these sorts of plays, Kaaya can either hand it off to one of his running backs for a draw, or pull it out at the last minute and throw it down field. The name of the game is reading what the defense gives you, so if UNC can be unpredictable and sneaky with the packages they throw at the Canes, they can make it a little harder on the quarterback. Also here’s a spoiler alert: Carolina runs the RPO as well. Up against an offense similar to their own, along with scouting and film study, the UNC defense should have the Miami offense figured out. Now it just comes down to execution.
There it is! If Carolina does these things, they’ll beat the Miami Hurricanes and sweep the state of Florida (nobody cares about the Gators anyways). Have some other thoughts on things the Tar Heels need to do well? Let us know below. Also don’t forget to check out the Miami/FSU highlights here
Prediction: Both offenses get going, but the Heels edge out the Canes 34-31 in Miami.