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UNC Football vs. Florida State: Game Preview

Can Mack Brown earn his first win against his alma mater?

Duke v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Since their first meeting in 1983, the North Carolina Tar Heels have managed only three wins in 20 meetings against Florida State.

UNC head coach Mack Brown has never beat his alma mater, and the lone Carolina victory in Chapel Hill was a massive upset in John Bunting’s first season as UNC’s coach.

The dominance by the Seminoles over the years was due in large part by former head coach Bobby Bowden, who passed away two months ago today. UNC football will honor Bowden with a special tribute on the side of the Blue Zone near the visitor’s section:

This Saturday afternoon, the Tar Heels look to put the past behind them and tack on another win during this critical homestand.

When looking Florida State’s overall statistics, it is not pretty for the Seminoles. FSU is 3rd from last in the ACC in both total offense and total defense.

FSU’s overall efficiency, which is the schedule-adjusted measure of per-play efficiency, places them 102nd in the country, sandwiched between Miami of Ohio and UNLV. It is the worst efficiency rating in the ACC.

On offense, the Seminoles are 12th in the ACC in average passing yards per game with 183.2. Their passing efficiency rating drops to second to last in the conference with a rating of 117.2. The focus of the FSU offense will be their run game. The Florida State rushing offense is ranked third in the ACC, averaging over 200 yards per game on the ground.

Jordan Travis, who has been injured throughout the start of this season, led Florida State to victory last week. The redshirt sophomore dual-threat quarterback is the same player that made the Tar Heels pay last year.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 05 Notre Dame at Florida State
Jordan Travis (13)
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Travis rushed for a career high 107 yards against UNC last season, and tallied his only multiple rushing touchdown game of his career.

Once again this week, the Tar Heel defense will face off against one of the top rushers in the league. Jashaun Corbin ranks third in the ACC with 504 yards on the season. He is one of three ACC running backs that is averaging over 100 yards per game.

A key battle tomorrow will be in the red zone. Carolina has the top red zone defense in the ACC, while Florida State’s red zone offense is second to last in the conference. If the Tar Heels struggle with a mobile quarterback, will the defense bend, but not break in the red zone?

On defense, all eyes are on FSU’s defensive line.

Florida State is tied for fifth in the ACC with 14 team sacks. Leading the way is redshirt senior Jermaine Johnson. The defensive end is tied for the league lead with 5.5 sacks.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 05 Notre Dame at Florida State
Jermaine Johnson II (11)
Photo by David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Carolina is dead last in the conference in sacks allowed, and by a wide margin. The offensive line struggles will be a storyline in each game. Tomorrow’s matchup is no exception. If the FSU front seven plays up to its potential, it could be another one of those days.

In the defensive secondary, redshirt freshman Travis Jay has a pair of interceptions on the season. However, that is one of the few bright spots for the Florida State pass defense. FSU is allowing 256 passing yards per game, and its passing defense efficiency is second to last in the ACC.

Last season, a one-win Florida State hosted an undefeated and fifth-ranked UNC team. Carolina was a two touchdown favorite, and the matchup earned a national broadcast in primetime. FSU hit UNC in the mouth, and led 31-7 at the half.

The Tar Heels dug deep in the second half by not allowing another Seminole score. The offense roared back, and had a shot to tie or win the game with the ball in FSU territory with less than a minute left in the game. The loss brought Carolina back to reality, and the 2020 team bounced back with a big win the next week. Here in 2021, the circumstances seem eerily familiar.

The Seminoles are down bad, but are coming off their first win of the season. The Tar Heels are coming off their most complete game of the season, and are trending up.

Can the Tar Heels build on their performance last week? Or will it be the same old song and dance for UNC?