The Tar Heels are currently preparing for a Miami Hurricanes team that just experienced one of the worst losses in college football history. It’s one of the worst losses not necessarily because of who they played — if you look at Georgia Tech’s games this season, one could argue that it was a really sneaky matchup — but it was because of all of the missteps. Five turnovers, running the ball instead of taking a knee, and not playing prevent defense in the final seconds all doomed the Hurricanes to get ridiculed for the better part of 24 hours. I’m surprised they’re still ranked, I’m surprised this will be a primetime game still, but ultimately neither of these things matter. The UNC/Miami games always provide a lot of entertainment for anybody that doesn’t have a horse in the race.
For anybody that’s paid attention to these two teams, the keys to this game are pretty obvious. Let’s face it, though: not everybody has enough time to do that. So let’s discuss the three things to watch during this weekend’s matchup.
Can Miami stop turning the ball over?
While it seems like this is a dig related to the final seconds of the Miami/Georgia Tech game, the truth is that the Hurricanes were turning over the ball quite a bit before that play. Miami QB Tyler Van Dyke threw a season-high three interceptions against the Yellow Jackets, and only managed to make up for it by throwing for one touchdown. The Hurricanes also fumbled the ball twice in total, with the second one obviously being the most consequential.
If Miami wants to leave Kenan Stadium with the upset, they will have to find a way to make sure the ball doesn’t end up in UNC’s hands. For Carolina’s side of things, they have an opportunity to force the Hurricanes to make mistakes by dialing up pressure on Van Dyke much like they’ve been doing against other quarterbacks this season. Force Miami to make errors, and it should put the Heels in pretty good position to win the game.
How much Tez Walker will we see?
Mack Brown has to be ecstatic to have one of the best receivers on the team back in action. Tez Walker drew a lot of attention against Syracuse last Saturday, and finished the night with six catches for 43 yards. Even when he wasn’t being targeted by Drake Maye, Walker drew enough attention from the Orange’s secondary to help create plays for other receivers.
Mack Brown stated earlier this week that Walker would have to earn his job as a starter. However, yesterday the latest depth chart released, and it turns out that Walker will indeed start against Miami:
Newest UNC Football depth chart, ahead of the Miami game. Tez Walker now listed as a starter— Isaac Schade (@isaacschade) October 11, 2023
OF NOTE: Make sure you see the WR starter updates:
• Tez Walker
• JJ Jones
• Kobe Paysour OR Nate McCollum pic.twitter.com/d4OuwiPM5G
While this is exciting news, it’s still unclear just how many snaps Walker will this weekend. Chip Lindsey discussed how they were slowly working Walker back into things, so it could be that starting him is more of a ceremonial thing than him getting a large amount of snaps? Or did the coaching staff change their mind? I guess we will find out this weekend.
The Run Game vs. The Hurricanes Defense
UNC running back Omarion Hampton has had an impressive season so far. After just five games, Hampton will enter this weekend’s game with 461 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. Though he’s only cracked the century mark in rushing one time this season, his presence is felt on the other side of the ball whenever he gets the ball. Unfortunately for Hampton and the Tar Heels, however, Miami’s run defense has been really good, only allowing an average of 58.2 yards per game.
While Miami hasn’t had a very hard schedule, the game to note when looking at their run defense is the one at home against Texas A&M. The Aggies are currently averaging 144 yards per game, but were held to just 97 by the Hurricanes, with 29 of those yards coming from their quarterback, Conner Weigman. It’s also worth noting that Georgia Tech ran for 99 yards, but Yellow Jackets QB Haynes King ran for most of that yardage (46).
So then, what does this information tell us? Omarion Hampton could end up having a bad day against the Hurricanes, but Drake Maye could cause some issues with his feet. If Omarion Hampton can get going, it’s hard to see how the Hurricanes will be able to stop Carolina’s high-powered offense.