What a difference a week makes! Carolina’s spirits are raised after a rainy-day romp over Virginia Tech, where the Heels defense pitched a shutout in the second half. UNC sits atop the Coastal Division at 1-0 and now heads to Miami where Mario Cristobal’s Hurricanes are still smarting after a dismal performance against Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders jumped on the Hurricanes early and never looked back, sending Miami quarterback (and Michael Rapaport lookalike) Tyler Van Dyke to the bench. The sophomore signal caller showed star potential last season, but has struggled in his second year as he learns a new offense. Last season, Miami did most of their harm on the ground in Chapel Hill. Van Dyke only threw one touchdown against three interceptions. Can Carolina hope for more of the same?
Spirits are down in South Beach, and this is where UNC needs to learn how to step on necks. Three years ago, UNC beat Miami with a thrilling comeback at the last minute. Two years ago, Javonte Williams (heal up soon!) took the U’s soul on black uniform night. Last season, Carolina held off a Hurricane rally to win narrowly. What’s another way to beat Miami? Hopefully we’ll find out Saturday evening.
Miami’s offense has some teething problems, and one of the main victims could be Tyler Van Dyke. He looked to be a future star and was voted third in ACC player of the year preseason poll. His face plant so far is surprising, and redshirt freshman Jake Garcia should definitely be stretched and ready to go at the first sign of trouble. Charleston Rambo and Mike Harley Jr are gone to the NFL, Xavier Restrepo is out for another 5/6 weeks with a foot injury, and Jacolby George is out another couple weeks with a thumb injury, so Van Dyke doesn’t have his favorite toys.
The Hurricanes will have to hope for significant improvement on the ground, as Henry Parrish was mid and Thaddius Franklin was sus against Middle Tennessee. Carolina was vastly improved in run defense against Virginia Tech, limiting the Hokies to just 99 rushing yards, but they are still in “prove it” territory until they show repeated competence.
Phil Longo and Drake Maye must have gotten Simpsons McRib eyes when they watched tape of Miami’s defense against Middle Tennessee.
Chase Cunningham averaged 25.5 yards per completion against the Hurricanes. Some gigantic plays skew that average, but good gawd! That’s awful from Miami. Drake Maye can surely press his thumb into that wound.
Linebacker Corey Flagg has looked vulnerable in coverage, so this is a game where the tight ends can really show their stuff. Expect Morales and Nesbit to continue gaining huge chunks between the hashes, hopefully for at least a touchdown each.
Mack Brown has harped on the need for more rushing, especially on first down, but that might not be the case against Miami. Middle Tennessee only rushed for a pedestrian 108 yards, opting to focus their attention on Miami’s suspect secondary. They gained 408 yards in the air—spread across eight receivers—for three touchdowns. Does that sound like a receiving corps you know?
Expect Josh Downs to get his, and Antoine Green to stretch the field vertically, while Drake Maye’s buddies from UNC’s Sun Belt run gobble up all the scraps. If Maye is protected, this could be a fun day of pitch and catch. Just make sure you run out of bounds instead of YOLO’ing into the air for an extra two yards, Drake! My heart can’t handle another scare.
Prediction: UNC 45, Miami 35