Game Preview - Miami At North Carolina, Dealing with success

Clive Walford something something first down - Joel Auerbach

As the season progresses, Miami finds itself in the top ten, undefeated; and the destination for some of the bigger name recruits for next year. Miami travels to North Carolina to take on the Tarheels under the familiar Thursday night lights of ESPN. How will UM handle the success and spotlight? Which North Carolina player will take over Gio Bernard's role of 'pain in the arse'? Plus - an over/under of how many mentions Stephen Morris' ankle gets during the telecast.

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History - UNC is ahead in the all time series 8-7, and unlike Georgia Tech (last week's foe) UNC's wins have been stacking up a little more recently. Since 2004 the two teams have played annually with UNC taking 5 of 9, including last year's contest. While not Florida State or Virginia Tech, North Carolina has crept up as that game on the schedule that you look at and think is winnable, but don't feel great about. It's a pretty even history between the two teams, with neither winning more than three years in a row. Also, according to mcubed.net,  the the average score of the series cannot get much closer - with Miami edging out UNC 20.6 to 20.1.

Not sure which school would be Brandy and which would be Monica in "The Butch Is Mine" remix but for those who didn't know, the two programs have Coach Butch Davis in common. Come to think of it, this is the second team Miami has faced this year(FAU), that has used a former UM coach as their head coach. Butch Davis is no Schnelly and something tells me UM and UNC are not going to make him a honorary captain. Davis did go into UNC creating a buzz around the football team. He filled the stadium and got top level recruits to come and play football for what was always a basketball school. But what followed was the oh so familiar tale of players and coaches doing things the NCAA frowned upon, which ultimately led to the team underachieving and Butch Davis getting let go. His time there (2006-2011) did allow UNC to get a few NFL level players, and is big reason why the UM vs UNC  match up is as close as it is.

North Carolina - Coming in at (1-4, 0-2 in the ACC) UNC is having a bit of a down year. The offense hasn't been able to replace the production of now Cincinnati Bengal RB Gio Bernard. The team ranks 112th in the nation - rushing averaging 100 yards a game. It's not because a stout defense held them to 17 yards rushing either. Their highest output rushing was 158 against Middle Tennessee State and their lowest was against ECU with 67 yards. Something to compare it to is: UNC rushed for about 100 against GT, while UM rushed for 230 against the same team. UNC splits the carries up between A.J. Blue(49) and Romar Morris(38) pretty evenly, with QB Bryn Renner coming in third on the team in carries with 30. There are also two other backs on the team with 20 plus carries; don't be surprised if you see multiple backs in the game if UNC cannot get the running game going against UM.

Where UNC can get you is through the air with QB  Bryn Renner. The UNC passing game is ranked 24th in the nation, with just under 300 yards a game. Renner is completing 59.9 % of his passes with a 7-3 TD to INT ratio. His leading receiver is  TE Eric Ebron with 23 receptions for 333 yards. If you watched the game between UNC and GT, you saw what a threat Ebron can be. Out wide, Quinshad Davis is starting to make a name for himself. In his last two games he has had 111 and 94 yards receiving,  and has caught a touchdown in all but one of his games this season. Also something I came across when looking up the stats, was that the two lead running backs are 2-2 passing for 55 yards and a touchdown, something to keep an eye on as the game progresses(you're welcome AL).

UNC ranks 93rd in overall defense. That's a few spots up from the 9th ranked total defense Miami faced against GT.  The UNC rush defense is ranked 97th - giving up 197 yards a game. Keep in mind they gave up 324 yards to GT, which is less than what Miami gave up to that triple option headache. They rank a bit higher in passing defense, but still give up 238 yards a game.

Miami - Miami loves themselves some ESPN on a Thursday night. The team comes in 15-3 all time on Thursday nights; and will get to show off their new top 10 ranking to the nation. Coming off a bye week, and facing a struggling ACC Coastal member while the nation watches in prime time, who else is absolutely terrified? This has all the makings of a coming out party for the Hurricanes. The offensive line is coming off their most dominating game of the season and Stephen Morris had a few extra days for his ankle issue to quiet down. The offense looked good against GT and would have looked amazing if it were not for a few turnovers. While we won't know for sure until the injury report comes out this week, it looks like Miami is getting healthy at the right time.

This will be the first true test for the Miami secondary. UNC is the most skilled passing team MIami has faced by a mile. So it's good that they are going into the game as close to full strengthth as they have been with Safety Deon Bush stepping back into the "OR" starting safety role. That means he may not be the safety that is physically on the field to start the game, but he's shown the coaching staff enough in practices to warrant him playing unlimited snaps during the game if needed. This game should tell us a lot about the pass rush as well. UM already has more sacks this year than all of last year, but this is the only first-pass offense they have faced; so it will be interesting to see what kind of push the front four can make now that they don' t have to worry about the run as much.

Players To Watch - For North Carolina it's QB Bryn Renner and TE Eric Ebron. This duo is the only realistic shot that UNC has of pulling the upset on Miami. UM hasn't faced a quality QB / TE combo this year other than in practice. Ebron was dominant against a solid GT defense and if he starts to get rolling in the middle of the field, it could lead to Quinshad Davis becoming open for the deep ball on the outside.

Players To Watch - For Miami it's CB Ladarius Gunter and DE Tyriq McCord. Miami has shown they can get it done on offense with Duke and company. The defensive line has also shown their improvement against run heavy teams like UF, USF, and GT. It's no secret that UNC is going to throw the ball and it's not like UM's passing defense is poor, it's just been untested. Can the pass rush of McCord and crew cause enough chaos that Renner makes a few bad decisions  throwing the ball? Can the coverage of Gunter and the secondary allow enough time for Miami's defensive front to harass Renner?

Should You Worry? Yes, yes you should. While typing this out it seemed like there isn't a lot to worry about from UNC; but you should never expect  a team to go on the road for an in-conference night game and not be tested. Miami all of a sudden has a lot of exposure and expectations. While I think this team does seem different, and should be fine; you don't know how they are going to respond if they give up a few big passing plays early, or continue to turn the ball over. Miami's offense was good last season and got bogged down against UNC. Things happen. That being said, I think Miami does make a statement in front of a national audience and wins easily.

Prediction - UM 38 UNC 17

BONUS PREDICTION: Correctly guess in the comments below the amount of times Rece and the gang mention Morris' foot during the broadcast and win... something... like bragging rights to your friends and family or whatever.

Below is Miami’s latest ACC Injury Report heading into Thursday night’s game at North Carolina. The next report will be released Monday.

DOUBTFUL

Rashawn Scott – upper extremity

OUT

Walter Tucker – lower extremity

Danny Isidora – lower extremity

SURGERY / OUT FOR SEASON

Hunter Knighton – upper extremity

Series History: UNC leads 8-7 ... Miami is 1-4 all-time at UNC ... Hurricanes won 30-24 at UNC in 2011.
ESPN • Rece Davis, Play-by-Play • Jesse Palmer, Analyst • David Pollack, Analyst • Samantha Steele, Sideline Reporter
WQAM 560 AM • Joe Zagacki, PXP • Don Bailey Jr., Analyst • Josh Darrow, Sideline Reporter
RADIO CARACOL 1260 AM • Roly Martin, PXP • Pepe Campos, Analyst • Joe Martinez, Analyst
WVUM 90.5 FM • Chris Wittyngham • Alex Schwartz • SATELLITE RADIO • Sirius 91 • XM 91 (UM broadcast)

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