After securing a much-needed victory against the Houston Cougars, the Miami Hurricanes enter this Saturday’s game against the North Carolina Tar Heels with a 2-2 record.
On the other hand, the UNC Tar Heels are coming off a long bye week, as they were trounced Clemson 52-7, two weeks ago. The loss dropped UNC to 1-3 this season. Their only win, a nail-biter against Furman, was against a Division I-AA program, while they have dropped all three games against Division I-A schools-Rutgers, Virginia Tech, and Clemson.
While both teams have taken different paths to get to where they are now, both share one common bond: they can’t beat the ranked teams.
Coming into the game, UNC is one of only two Atlantic Coast Conference teams that hold an all-time series lead over Miami. In nine meetings, the Tar Heels are 5-4 against the Hurricanes. In their last meeting in 2005, Miami was victorious, winning 34-16 at the Orange Bowl.
Past put aside, this game holds a great deal of present value. As for the Tar Heels, a win against the Hurricanes would put them back on track and get them their first win of the year against a Division I-A school.
For Miami, this game marks the beginning of their endeavor through the ACC. Seven of Miami’s next eight games are against conference teams.
A loss at any point could be crippling to the team’s efforts toward getting in position for the ACC Championship game.
Entering the game, Miami is 49th in total offense and 21st in total defense, among 119 Division I-A schools. North Carolina stands 76th in total offense and 104th in total defense.
Offensively, UNC shows a balanced attack. The running game equates for about 40 percent of the offense, while the air attack yields 60 percent of the offense.
“The Tar Heels are the complete opposite of what we played last week,” Head Coach Larry Coker said. “Their offense is more of a power running attack. Last week, Houston was more of passing, finesse attack. Offensively, I think they have some weapons.”
This should play into the hands of a Miami defense that prides itself on stopping the run. Miami’s ability to thwart the running game, should allow them to keep the Tar Heel air attack under wraps.
The Hurricane defense will have to zero in on a few key targets. Running back Ronnie McGill will likely be on Miami’s radar. He accounts for more than 50 percent of the running game and has three touchdowns this season.
“Their offensive linemen are big and McGill does a good job of getting behind those guys,” Coker said. “We have to make sure we do a good job of being explosive, control the clock, and control the football.”
Additionally, Miami’s secondary will have to keep their eyes on wide receivers Brooks Foster and Hakeem Nicks, who combined account for nearly 50 percent of the UNC air attack.
In conjunction with the receivers, the Hurricane secondary will have to keep their eyes on freshman quarterback Cam Sexton.
If the Miami secondary shows up hungry, they could have a feeding day, as Sexton has thrown four interceptions in three games.
Offensively, Miami is going against a weak Tar Heel defense. The Tar Heels are 114 out of 119 teams in terms of rush defense.
This means that another big game can be expected out of true freshman and ACC Rookie of the Week Javarris James.
The game kicks off on Saturday at 12:00 p.m. in the Orange Bowl.
Pravin Patel may be contacted at email@example.com.