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UNC Player(s) to watch: Running Backs

Can we expect an uptick in production from the running game in the absence of a viable passing game?

NCAA Football: California at North Carolina Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

There’s not too much to look forward to for this iteration of North Carolina football.

North Carolina finished the game against Virginia with just 46 passing yards. That was the lowest total for the passing game in 17 seasons when the Tar Heels threw for 42 against Maryland in 2000.

The rushing game, however, finished with a season high 211 yards. This is where North Carolina should keep going, no matter who is running the ball. Either through a ground-and-pound rushing attack or using the running abilities of the quarterbacks with a read-option style. However, the inexperience at the receiver position and lack of chemistry between the receivers and quarterbacks won’t help to open things up, so it won’t be easy.

As we have all season, we should continue to see a heavy dose of Jordon Brown and Michael Carter. Also expect Brandon Harris or Chazz Surratt to factor into the ground game as well. Brown, who has 327 yards on 75 carries, has been the feature back in many of the games, but is only averaging four yards per carry. He has been spelled by the explosive freshman, Carter, who has amassed 388 yards on 61 carries while averaging nearly seven yards per carry. Both have broken off big runs and have proven that they can handle a bulk of the carries.

However, the Tar Heels can't expect to line up in a Power I formation and ram it across the line. The Hokies' defense is just too strong. They are holding defenses to just 120 rushing yards. With that, you would have to think that both running backs get involved in the short passing game more than they have been. Brown only has 20 catches on the season for around 125 yards while Carter only has four receptions. These numbers will need to increase to help continue a strong ground game.

Either way, this is going to be a very tough outing for the Tar Heels. If there is any chance of pulling the upset, they will need the ground game clicking on all cylinders. The Tar Heels will take their shots down the field, but as has been proven this year, those deep threats aren’t as dangerous as they have been in the past. My expectations are that Brown will see around 15-17 carries, while Carter sees somewhere in the 10-12 range. Both should also be targeted in the short passing game two to three times each.

Even so, this won’t be enough and North Carolina will fall to the Hokies; 17-27.