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UNC vs UVA: Player to Watch

Malik Carney is back. Sit back and watch the show.

North Carolina v California Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Another week, another opportunity for UNC to find their second win of the season. As the season has progressed, it seems a different player stands out for the Heels every week. Last week was Dazz Newsome. Against Virginia Tech it was Michael Carter. Nathan Elliott showed out against Pittsburgh. Kind of.

Yet, sitting at 1-5, it doesn’t quite seem right that the offense has been dominating so much of the headlines. The defense has been good, and downright spectactular at times, allowing UNC to keep most of their games close as the offense sputters inside the red zone. This week we turn our attention to the defensive line.

Malik Carney

This may qualify as cheating as Malik Carney is a confirmed beast on the defensive line. I make no apologies, however, as Carney has only appeared in three games this season due to his suspension from selling team-issued shoes. Officially eligible to play in all of UNC’s remaining scheduled games, he will be sorely needed against a string of opponents that are vulnerable to late season losses.

That need begins this weekend against Virginia.

Just how dominant has Carney been? He has recorded 5.5 sacks in his three games. That matches his sack total for the entire 2017 season, and is over 25% of UNC’s 20 sacks as a team. (Ok, just barely over 25%. Still counts.) It also mean he is averaging 1.83333 (repeating) sacks per game – which is technically the best in the nation.

Unfortunately, he doesn’t have enough games to properly be included in those rankings, but it should be noted that he wasn’t feasting on lowly non-P5 opponents. Those sacks came against California, Miami, and Virginia Tech. As have his 20 tackles, of which 7.5 were for a loss. Simply put, Carney has been borderline unstoppable.

Why does this specifically matter against Virginia? Because they are allowing 2.71 sacks per game for a total of 19 on the year. That slots them at 13th in the ACC and 92nd in the nation. They are only slightly better at allowing tackles for loss, where their 7.0 TFLs allowed per game (49.0 overall) is good for 11th in the conference and 97th in all of America.

Coincidentally, UNC has also allowed 7.0 TFLs per game. Though, with one less game played, they’ve only given up 42 tackles for loss on the year. The difference, of course, is UNC throws approximately 40 passes behind the line of scrimmage each game.*

Virginia, most decidedly, does not. The Cavaliers simply have a very mediocre offensive line. We should all look forward to Malik Carney taking full advantage.

*Ok. Fine. That’s not a real stat. But, on any given Saturday, it could be. That is terrifying.

Go Heels.