Miami Hurricanes need to beat Tar Heels to stay alive in ACC Coastal

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Former running back Duke Johnson (8) runs past two North Carolina defenders during last year's win against the Tar Heels. File Photo // The Miami Hurricane

Former running back Duke Johnson (8) runs past two North Carolina defenders during last year’s win against the Tar Heels. File Photo // The Miami Hurricane

The last time the Miami Hurricanes were in the state of North Carolina for a football game – well yeah, we know what happened.

This Saturday’s matchup against North Carolina (8-1, 5-0) may not feature the craziness we witnessed in Durham two weeks ago, but there is no doubt that this game is a season-definer for Larry Scott’s Canes.

Each season, fans rush to see the schedule to find out when Miami plays Florida State. While those games certainly mean a lot, Saturday’s contest against North Carolina could mean a whole lot more.

As it stands, the Hurricanes sit in third place in the ACC Coastal Division behind the Tar Heels and the Pittsburgh Panthers. Undefeated through five games in the conference, North Carolina has the clear edge to claiming a spot in the ACC Championship Game, but the Hurricanes are still in the running.

If the Canes (6-3, 3-2) win out and then get help from either North Carolina State or Virginia Tech in beating North Carolina, the ACC Coastal title would miraculously come to Coral Gables. Now that’s looking ahead, but it’s certainly possible.

North Carolina is coming off of a 66-31 beatdown of rival Duke last Saturday and has won eight straight games after a loss to South Carolina to open the season. If it weren’t for their terrible performance against the Gamecocks, this team could have been in the hunt for a College Football Playoff spot at this point.

The Tar Heels are led by the impressive backfield duo of senior quarterback Marquise Williams and sophomore running back Elijah Hood. While Williams is certainly a threat through the air, he’s also racked up 558 rushing yards this season. As we’ve seen throughout this season, the Canes have often struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks, and that could be an issue again come Saturday.

With Hood, defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio will have his hands full, as the powerful back has been solid all season. Last week, the 220-pound running back only rushed for 69 yards, but he punched it in for three touchdowns.

In last year’s 47-20 victory for the Canes, Williams was contained all afternoon while Hood did not make an appearance. But these two guys are different players this year.

The last time the Hurricanes were in the Tar Heel State, they pulled off one of the most spectacular plays in college football history. If the Canes can grab another victory in North Carolina this weekend, it could propel Miami to an improbable ACC Championship appearance.

 

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