The North Carolina Tar Heels will be traveling to south Florida for a 3:30 PM game against the #16 Miami Hurricanes on Saturday. Each team had a home conference loss last week, and will be looking for a win to keep pace with Virginia Tech in the Coastal Division standings.
The sloppy conditions in the middle of Hurricane Matthew did not help UNC last week. However, as Coach Larry Fedora said, the Tar Heels could not blame the weather, as Virginia Tech had to play in the same conditions. Will Carolina get back on track against the Miami Hurricanes and their tough defense?
The 131 yards of total offense last week against Virginia Tech was the lowest for a Tar Heel football squad since a 19-3 loss against Wake Forest at home on November 6, 1999. With running back Elijah Hood out, UNC was without their best option at tailback for those rainy conditions. Running back T.J. Logan carried the load for the Carolina offense on the ground and as the top receiver coming out of the backfield.
UNC saw how important Hood and the passing game are to the offense. With dropped balls and the offensive line back on their heels, it was a demoralizing day for the offense. However, the good news is there is nowhere but up to go from here. If Hood returns on Saturday, it will be a boost to the team. A balanced attack will be needed against the Hurricanes, who are currently ranked 10th in the nation in total defense.
Last week against Florida State, Miami used their passing game to come within a blocked extra point attempt of forcing overtime. The Tar Heels defense needs to take advantage of an injury to Miami’s starting right tackle and put pressure on talented quarterback Brad Kaaya. Kaaya is a pocket passer that has a wide assortment of receiving options. Carolina’s defensive line will need to disrupt Kaaya’s rhythm and UNC’s veteran secondary will need to lead the way against the Hurricanes’ passing game.
Once again, a Miami-Florida State game came down to a kick, except this time it was the Seminoles stuffing a game-tying extra point attempt by the Hurricanes. This disappointing loss, combined with Miami’s embarrassing 59-21 to the Heels last year at Kenan, will likely motivate the Hurricanes on Saturday.
Although the passing game for Miami has been leading the offense in conference play, the Hurricanes have had a balanced offensive game plan this season. Two running backs, Mark Walton and Joseph Yearby, have seen plenty of action this year for The U, combining for 13 rushing touchdowns. Overlooking this duo will cause trouble for the Tar Heels defense. With Kaaya facing some shoulder issues, look for Miami to make more effective use of its running game.
On the defensive side of the ball, Miami has been holding opponents to under four yards-per-play. Last week was not their best defensive performance of the year, but the Miami offense was able to score a touchdown after their defense forced an interception. Scoring points off forced turnovers always helps the defensive cause.
UNC will win if they
Put pressure on Miami’s quarterback
Do not have broken coverage in the secondary
Return to the level of their previous offensive performances
Miami will win if they
Disrupt UNC’s passing game
Score touchdowns, not field goals, off forced turnovers
Have an efficient and balanced offensive attack