What looked to be a prime-time division deciding match-up on paper in the preseason, has lost a bit of luster with Miami and UNC having lost a combined four ACC games already. Miami looked as good as they have in a few seasons last week against VT while UNC pulled off a late comeback victory against a solid Virginia team. The Tar Heels lead the all time series but UM can pull even with a win on Saturday. The line opened with Miami being 17 point favorites but with recent injuries and Miami's up and down play this game doesn't feel like a lay up. It's a Kelly Strong Green Out for Home coming this year with kick scheduled for 12:30 pm.
Miami topped UNC last year with some late game ground dominance thanks to the offensive line and Dallas Crawford but with the news of Miami's best O Lineman LT Erik Flowers being out due to injury, Miami's ability to control the line of scrimmage becomes a question mark.
UNC: Started this season with high expectations but a week three 70 to 41 loss at the hands of ECU threw the team into a funk that turned into a four game losing streak. They've since rallied to win their last two games over coastal bro's GT and UVA. It's hard to tell what you will get with UNC from week to week, the team that gave up nearly 800 net yards to ECU or the team that put up 43 points in a close loss against Notre Dame.
North Carolina has the nations 20th ranked passing offense averaging just under 300 yards a game. Quarterback Marquise Williams leads the way with a 63.3 completion percentage passing for 2035 yards 17 TDs and 7 Ints. He spreads it around between his WRs with seven having atleast 15 receptions. His main targets are Mack Hollins and Ryan Switzer. Hollins a 6-3 200 lb receiver leads the team in yards with 555, averaging 21.3ypc. Big play threat, he's accounted for seven TD;s and is coming off a 2 catch 2 TD game against UVA where he put up 120 yards. Switzer is the teams leading receiver with 35 receptions for 456 yards, a 13 ypc average, as a 5-10 180 lb slot receiver who will be taking care of all the underneath routes. He dominated in the GT game with 9 catches for 136 yards and 2 TDs. Who they don't have anymore is TE Eric Ebron who absolutely KILLED Miami last season. While they still have plenty of options, Cane fans can sleep a little better knowing Ebron is now in the NFL.
Rushing for the Heels hasn't been quite as productive, with them ranking 82nd nationally at 150 yards a game. Quarterback Marquise Williams leads the team in yards and attempts with nearly 110 carries for just under 500 yards. Miami sees this style (dual threat QB) a few times a season and it can pose them some problems if they don't stop it early. Talented freshman Elijah Hood has missed the last two games with an undisclosed injury so it's unclear at this point on wither he will be able to participate against Miami this week. . Hood if available, is joined by T.J. Logan who has 56 carries for 232 yards at a 4.1 ypc clip.
Where UNC can blow Miami's plans up this week is on the defensive side of the ball. 'Bruh, they gave up 70 to ECU, what are you talking about?' Glad you asked. When news broke that Miami's long standing rock along the offensive line LT Erik Flowers would be out anywhere from a week to the rest of the season the UNC D line probably started to foam at the mouth. That makes three good starting quality O lineman that will be unavailable for Miami and eventually that's going to start to show. UNC has 14 sacks on the season and will be looking to pad that quite a bit against a patch work Miami O line. If they are able to pressure Kaaya into rushed throws they are more than capable of making him pay. UNC has 11 interceptions this season 3 of which were returned for TDs. So yes, UNC currently sits with the 120th ranked total defense but has an opportunity to take advantage of Miami's misfortune.
Miami: is coming off it's most complete game in recent memory. No small reason for it was the line coming together and mauling open lanes for Duke Johnson and Gus Edwards to run through. Because we can only have so much good happen at any given time, injury will now cause a line flip-a-roo. Jon "sure coach I'll change spots" Feliciano will now change from his temporary spot at RT back over to the left side to fill in the new vacancy at LT. That leaves either TF Trevor Darling or Sunny Odogwu to fill in at RT. I figure Darling to play more but both are going to have growing pains. Not many ways to spin this as anything positive except at least there's a few weeks until FSU. Can they pass protect? Can they create running lanes? Will Sunny tear a defenders arm off by accident? All legit questions.
To be honest last week Duke looked like he didn't need a line to dominate so he may not need much to get to the second level. Joseph Yearby was a late scratch due to a hamstring issue and Gus Edwards took full advantage. Moving forward if he's able to continue that style of running Miami will have a true change of pace back and be a problem for defenses. It was easily Edwards best game, hopefully he's able to keep it up against UNC's questionable defense. As always the run game takes pressure of Kaaya so Id expect a run heavy first couple of offensive series.
Kaaya wasn't asked to do much last week but came through when needed. It will be an interesting game for him with the changes along the line. UNC has been good at creating turnovers so making the right decision with the ball will be important. Taking a sack or throwing it away when under pressure will be keys. Miami may be a 17 point favorite but a few turnovers will make for an uncomfortable crowd. "Watch Duke Johnson be awesome" is a solid game plan and Kaaya benefits from it, no reason to over think what worked last week against a better defense in VT. A few deep shots to Phillip Dorsett will keep the defense guessing, and maybe get TE Clive Walford a bit more involved but as long as he's finding the open man they will be okay. For more on how Miami's offense will stack up against UNC take a look HERE.
Miami's defense set the tone on the first drive of last week's game against VT. A big stop on third and short by an aggressive defense sent the message that it wasn't going to be a 7 yards per carry night and that VT would need to work for what they got. Miami will need to take that same approach Saturday. Williams cannot be allowed to beat Miami by both running and passing, if UM can keep him from hurting them with his feet UNC becomes a lot easier to deal with through the air. UNC will put up yardage much like CIncy so hopefully Miami has some of what ever got into them in Blacksburg.
- For fans attending the game it's a green out, dress accordingly. Jim Kelly will be honorary captain, he beat cancer. So your ass better beat your hangover and get out to show him the respect he and the team deserves.
Prediction UM 37 UNC 24
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