2011: 5-1 (1-1)
Last week's game: The Heels defeated the Louisville Cardinal in a thrilling, unforgettable 14-7 shootout. In one of the great offensive explosions of the 2011 season, neither team was able to gain 275 total yards, or even 180 yards passing. Freshman, and Miami native, Giovanni Bernard managed to eek out 109 yards on 25 carries to lead the Heels, while quarterback Brynn Renner proudly vied for the title of Game Manager of the Week. Erstwhile Canes commit Teddy Bridgewater started under center for the Cardinal, and he couldn't do much of anything, gaining only 5.5 yds per pass attempt before cashing in a meaningless touchdown with 42 seconds left and the Cardinal down two scores.
Last year's match meeting: Miami 33 North Carolina 10 With Randy Shannon somehow winless against the Heels in that point in his career, last year's game between the two teams was pegged as a pivotal one for the Canes. Of course, it turned out not to matter in the grand scheme of things, but the Canes came out fired up for their coach, and they blew out a depleted UNC team. Jacory Harris threw for three touchdowns, and the Canes defense picked off UNC QB Tyler Yates twice in what ended up being the last feel good moment of Randy Shannon's tenure as head coach.
Offense: Though painful at times, the UNC offense is actually both efficient and potentially explosive. It's a top heavy unit. led by Bernard, the freshman that has 60 more carries than any other back on the team. At receiver, it's junior Dwight Jones, whose 37 catches (for 600+ yards) more than doubles any other pass catcher in the Heels offense. Jones is an explosive receiver averaging over 17 yards a reception, but UNC wants to run the ball first in order to set him up. It's a distinctly ACC style of play
Defense: The Heels 2010 defense, prior to getting wiped out by suspensions, was slated to be one of the best in the entire country. They turned out to be solid but not spectacular, and the same could be said for this year's edition as well. On the defensive line, the Heels flex two legitimate first round prospects in Quinton Coples and Dontae Paige-Moss, and both will need to get constant pressure on Jacory Harris. The Heels have been slightly susceptible to the pass this season, but it's a defense that, though it has no glaring weakness, also doesn't really feature a calling card.
Match up in Miami's favor: The Heels can be thrown on, and if Jacory Harris plays today like he did against Virginia Tech, than Miami should be able to move the ball with relative ease. The UNC corners are young, and though they certainly are nowhere near as much of a liability as the Miami defensive backs, they also aren't going to put the clamps on a team with a competent passing game such as Miami's. The Heels were burned deep by Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, so the Canes should look to chuck a few deep balls Tommy Streeter's way.
Match up in UNC's favor: Brynn Renner is not going to beat most teams just with his arm, but he certainly is capable of moving the ball consistently against the Heels. He's efficient in standard downs and short yardage, and I'd expect the Heels coaching staff to try and get him in a rhythm early after watching Virginia Tech's previously shaky Logan Thomas morph into Joe Montana last week. The onus here is on Brandon McGee to stop UNC's Jones— McGee has been good this year, but he's also given up a few big plays, and UNC will be looking for Jones to get behind the defense.