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Tar Heel Hangover: High fives all the way around!

A top five ranking; but a top five team?

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Tar Heel Hangover. This is our opportunity to review last week’s game, second-guess all of the key moments, and set the game plan for the week ahead.

The Elevator Speech: What happened last week.

An offensive explosion resulted in over 650 yards of offense including 399 on the ground. This was a tremendous and dominating performance. The only issue is that the defense gave up nearly 500 yards and 45 points. It was a big win over a top 20 team, but this team has still not hit its stride.

Water Cooler Discussion: If I were the coach . . .

After three games and five weeks of the season, a great coach should know exactly what kind of team they have. I doubt Coach Mack Brown could honestly say he knows what this Tar Heel team will be. 430 yards of offense per game against Syracuse and Boston College, 650 against the Hokies. About 280 yards of offense given up per game through the first two, 500 against the Hokies.

This seems to be a good news, bad news story. The offense finally breaks out for 56 points - good news. They do it, however, against a Hokie team that is missing a lot of players on the defense due to COVID-19 - bad news. Most of those absent players are in the Virginia Tech secondary and it is the Tar Heel running game that dominated - good news.

The Tar Heel defense certainly took a step back. First on the priority list should be figuring out how to cover a tight end. James Mitchell had four receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. Last week, it was Hunter Long with 9 receptions for 96 yards. Perhaps this is a Chazz Surratt related issue. Surratt is excellent around the line and is an outstanding blitzer. Use him in that capacity, however, and it is Jeremiah Gemmel who has to cover the middle of the field. Gemmel’s primary strength is in run support and not so much in coverage. Working the quarterback pressure to get the right matchups in the pass coverage has to be a priority this week for Jay Bateman.

Key stat for the week.

Once again, it feels like penalties are an easy place to start. For the second straight week, the Heels committed 10 penalties. It felt like they were more costly against Boston College, but the numbers are not good. This remains about focus and execution.

The stat to keep an eye on this week, however, is turnovers. Carolina has only forced one turnover all year and has gotten none the last two weeks. With the pressure that this explosive offense can put on opposing defenses, a quick turnaround seems all the more valuable. A great running offense can really wear down a defensive line, especially with very little rest. This may be the recipe for a blowout win against the Seminoles.

Looking Forward: A quick peek ahead.

It has been no secret what Notre Dame did to Florida State with the running game. The Irish ran for over 350 yards, averaging nearly 8.5 yards per carry. Carolina has the best backfield combination in the country. Look for a lot of defenders close to the line with 8 men in the box as the safeties are forced into run-support.

This should open up the secondary for Sam Howell and the talented Tar Heel receivers. I am expecting another huge explosion on offense with a lot of points on the board. This will allow the Tar Heel defenders to go ball hunting and get both sacks and interceptions.

Final Thoughts

A top five ranking for the first time since Mack Brown was the coach. The only loss in that 1997 season came against Florida State. Here’s hoping that history does not repeat itself.