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UNC Football vs Miami: Q&A with State of the U

Time to check the pulse of the fanbase at The U going into Saturday

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 24 Camping World Kickoff - Florida v Miami Photo by Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We can dig and preview all we want, but sometimes it’s nice to have the perspective of the other side. Just like last week, we reached out to our sister blog covering the Tar Heels’ opponent. This time it’s State of the U, who covers all things Miami, and their writer Cameron Underwood. I gave them the Tar Heel perspective if you want to check it out, so let’s see what they think about their team this weekend.

THB: How do fans feel after a close loss to a top 10 team? Upset over missed chances, or happy they were in it?

SotU: A bit of both, really. It was good to see Miami actually fight against a ranked team for once, but the missed chances can not be overlooked. For all the errors and mistakes of that game, if Jeff Thomas catches that ball in the corner of the endzone -- a play that would have put Miami up 27-17 with 5 minutes left in the game -- we win that game. And that’s a tough pill to swallow. So yeah, it was good to see this team compete against a top 10 opponent until the very end, but we had every chance to put that game away and failed to do so. Against a ranked team, that hurts. Against a rival like Florida, that is multiplied exponentially. Yet, the performance is oddly comforting, since Miami won’t face a team with nearly the talent that Florida possesses the rest of the season. It’s weird, I know.

What’s the thought on Jarren Williams so far? Decent stat line but had two fumbles, do fans think the right decision was made?

For the most part, the decision was accepted and understood by the fanbase. Sure, there are still some Perry or Martell truthers out there, but that’s to be expected when you have a multiple player battle.

As far as his performance, Williams both flashed potential and areas for development. Completing 65% of his passes was great. Holding the ball far too long and taking 10 sacks -- of which at least half were his fault -- needs to improve. Williams has the ability to maneuver in the pocket, run when given room, and make every throw you need a QB to make. So the talent and potential are there. And in several instances, we saw that against Florida. But, he needs to recognize blitzes better and stop holding the ball so long. Throwaways might hurt his completion percentage, but 2nd and 10 is better than 2nd and 14 after a sack, yanno?

How big of an advantage is playing in Week 0 in getting ready for this game?

I don’t think it is that big of a difference from having played in Week 1, to be honest. Both teams would already have a game under their belt, and practices would have moved on this week like they are. It could have been a big deal had Miami sustained a major injury in the opener, but that wasn’t the case. Extra practice time to prepare for an opponent is always good, but I don’t see playing in Week 0 versus Week 1 ahead of this game as a big deal.

Miami’s defense is seen as its biggest strength, what should Carolina fans expect?

Expect to see a diverse, attacking group looking to prove itself after a loss. Miami’s senior linebackers -- Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney -- were quite bad in the opener, so they’ll look to return to their All-ACC form. Miami’s tackling was quite bad at times, so that will need to get shored up, too. The biggest difference will be the pass rush. Against Florida, the gameplan was to contain Franks and force him to his left. Against UNC, Miami should get back to the basics of a Manny Diaz/Blake Baker defense: gap penetration and disruption. Miami has been at the top of Havoc rate and TFLs over the past few years, and I expect that to be a key part of the game on Saturday.

Who’s going to be the biggest problem on Miami’s offense for Carolina’s defense?

Sophomore TE Brevin Jordan is the best player at his position in the country, so he’s a problem for everybody. Too fast for LBs and too big for DBs, Jordan is a mismatch nightmare and Carolina will want to account for him on every play. He can and does line up all over the offensive formation for Miami, so this won’t be an easy task.

Junior WR Jeff Thomas may have had his struggles against Florida, but he’s the kind of player who can score any time he touches the ball. The last time Miami played in Chapel Hill, Thomas scored on a 75 yard TD immediately after halftime to give Miami the lead, which they would not relinquish. Whether as a receiver or return man, Thomas has electric speed so he’s a problem for opposing defenses.

Aside from those two, I’d say QB Jarren Williams and RBs DeeJay Dallas and Cam’ron Harris are the other players to watch for Miami’s offense against Carolina.

Flip it, who on Miami’s defense will be the biggest problem for Carolina’s offense?

Miami’s aggressive, penetrating scheme is the problem for opposing offenses, but there are players who make plays in that scheme. DE Jonathan Garvin is one of the best players at his position in the country, so he’s a guy to watch. Additionally, DE Gregory Rousseau is a beast off the edge, and will earn his way into more PT this season as he returns from a season-ending injury last year. He may not play a lot of snaps, but watch #15 when he comes on the field.

Of course, I need to mention LBs Quarterman, Pinckney, and STRIKER Romeo Finley. They have all played well against UNC in the past, and Miami will need that to happen again on Saturday.

In the secondary, watch for CB Trajan Bandy, and S Gurvan Hall.

You at all concerned about special teams? The 27 yard missed FG seemed to be a pretty big play in game one.

Yes and no. That late FG miss was from a tough angle, and I think that was more to blame for the miss than anything else. Plus, Bubba Baxa hit two other, longer FGs in the game, so it’s not like he missed his only chance.

Miami’s punting was solid if unspectacular in the opener, but that’s still a step forward from what it was a year ago. So that’s another positive for special teams.

The return game could definitely be better. That fumbled punt deep in our own territory was a killer. I think I gave special teams a C- after the first game, which isn’t good enough, but also isn’t cause for rampant concern, as long as things get shored up this week.

What have you liked from the new coaching staff so far?

The energy. Look, for all the good he did at Miami, Mark Richt wasn’t really a rah rah kind of guy. And, neither was Al Golden. And neither was Randy Shannon. And neither was Larry Coker. So, for Manny Diaz and company to come in with such high energy is a breath of fresh air.

And, beyond that, Diaz has a clear plan on what needs to be done and how to accomplish it. He was the person tasked with rebuilding Miami’s porous defense from the Mark D’Onofrio tenure, and he did that successfully with energy and acumen. Diaz’s new task -- returning Miami to national prominence -- is being approached in the same manner. We’re only 1 game in, but that’s the thing that I like the most from the new staff. Well that and an offense that looks like football in the 2010 instead of the 1990s.

Lay it on the line-what do we see Saturday, and what’s the final score?

I commend UNC for their comeback win against South Carolina in the opener, but several things went their way that I don’t see happening again this week. Miami is the more talented team, and I think that will be a major factor in this week’s game. Plus, we owe y’all some get back from Marquise Williams throwing the U down gesture. No, I haven’t forgotten, and this team hasn’t either.

Miami 31 Carolina 20

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Thanks to State of the U for the answers, hopefully their prediction is wrong.