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UNC vs Miami: Three Things to Watch

For the upset, these things have to go right for the Heels.

Pittsburgh v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

A lot of things have to go right for the North Carolina Tar Heels to pull off the victory tomorrow night, but that is why you play the game.

Williams and the Running Backs versus Miami’s Run Defense

Antonio Williams’s 114 yards on 16 carries and two touchdowns against Pitt was a certainly a welcome sight after a good start versus ECU was cut short with a targeting ejection. In the Pitt game, Jordon Brown and Michael Carter added meaningful carries with Brown adding another rushing TD.

These three will face a serious challenge against Miami. The Hurricanes are fifth in the nation in run defense and leads the nation in team tackles for loss.

Can William Sweet, ACC Offensive Lineman of the Week, and the o-line make some room for the running backs Thursday night? Miami defensive linemen Gerald Willis III and Joe Jackson each have a pair of sacks on the year and will power this team’s aggressive front seven.

When looking inside the numbers, the performance of the Miami run defense has not been consistent. They allowed 156 yards on the ground against LSU, 30 yards versus Savannah State, 112 yards against Toldeo, then 17 yards versus FIU.

You must take into consideration the quality of the opponents when looking at their run defense numbers, but the Tar Heels cannot prepare for anything except a fifth-ranked run defense.

Elliott Gets the Start, But What Happens Next?

Jake Lawrence broke down the pros and cons of Nathan Elliott’s performance versus Pitt in a very succinct manner on Monday. Simply put, the jury is still out on Elliott and if he can lead this offense with two big division games ahead.

Tar Heel fans are curious to see how Chazz Surratt will perform. On one hand, he has some starter experience and another year to learn and grow as a quarterback in the program. On the other, he has no game experience this year and performing in game speed is a a totally different animal.

When asked by Jones Angell this week, Coach Larry Fedora said Surratt is “up and running and ready to go.” Is he a go for Thursday night?

Perhaps the inclusion of Surratt into the offense will create enough chaos for the Miami defense that the Heels can take advantage of the opportunity.

Stop the Big Play

A common problem in the Fedora era, but this will be a key Thursday night. Why? The Miami offense is not as explosive as you would expect.

Both Carolina and Miami are paired up in rushing and passing offense when looking at team averages in the ACC.

The Hurricanes made a change against FIU with freshman quarterback N’Kosi Perry replacing senior Malik Rosier on the third possession. Miami did not look back in that game and may not again this season.

There may be an opportunity for the Tar Heel defense to take advantage of a freshman quarterback on a short week.

But with that aggressiveness on defense is the risk of giving up the big play. It happened again last week when Darrin Hall scored on a 65-yard run to tie the game. The Panthers then forced a three-and-out and scored another touchdown a minute later to take the lead into the half.

Carolina recovered with a great third quarter versus Pitt, but they certainly cannot run that risk against Miami. If they can stop playmakers like Perry, wide receiver Jeff Thomas, and running back Travis Homer from creating those gut-wrenching scoring plays, the defense could hang tough.

What will you be looking for Thursday night? Let us know in the comments below.