When it comes to University of Miami rivals, the list is fairly short—FSU, Florida, Notre Dame,
select few officiating crews…. Another program that adamantly wants to join this list is the University of North Carolina. Separated by 838 miles, this is not a feud that is fueled by proximity. The Hurricanes and Tar Heels have lined up against each other on 21 occasions, including two games that were vacated in 2008 and ‘09 because of sanctions against UNC. With those two game removed, Miami holds the all-time series lead with 10 wins to nine losses. Both teams have enjoyed a three-game winning streak against the other at one time or another. That embarrassing 59–21 loss in 2015 was the largest margin of victory for either side in this budding rivalry.
Even though both teams find themselves in the coastal division of the ACC, there are few recruiting battles or lingering animosity outside of game week. Well, there wasn’t until former UNC WR Ryan Switzer pulled this move:
Followed by Marquise Williams doing much of the same:
Everyone wants to kick you when you’re down, but this kind of disrespect leaped over the boundary of respect and into contempt. With the animosity rising in this ACC coastal series, the thermostat of hate has climbed recently. Miami halted UNC’s win streak in 2017, winning 24–19 at Chapel Hill. Keep in mind, the ’17 Tar Heels was plagued with injuries in the early portion of the season. Miami looked to take advantage of this as other teams before them had, but the game became more hotly contested than expected. Freshman QB Chazz Surratt started the game, yet would stay close to the bench for most of it as sophomore Nathan Elliott proved to be the better option. Elliott passed for 173 yards on 16 completions with one touchdown. Elliott also turned out to be a significant sponsor of the Turnover Chain in the afternoon, tossing three interceptions on the day. Even in victory, Tar Heel fans were unimpressed that a game they expected to be a blow out was instead closer than the experts predicted. It was UNC RB Jordan Brown’s fumble that gave the ball back to the ’Canes, killing hopes of a game-winning drive for UNC. Despite Miami owning the FBS’ longest win streak entering the game, a less-than-dominant win to a beleaguered Heels squad emboldened many detractors.
There might not be a hotter seat in the ACC than that of UNC head coach Larry Fedora. With injuries to many stars and reserve players last season, Fedora was dealt a difficult hand as the head coach. The losses of CB MJ Stewart, WR Austin Proehl and LB Andre Smith could pose a difficult task for the current team to replace their production.
The team’s greatest strength in 2018 should be having young players with experience from a season ago. Among the headliners on offense is the aforementioned RB Brown; however, there are mumbles from the fanbase to see sophomore RB Michael Carter receive a heavier workload this year. On the other side of the ball, CB KJ Sails will look to take the top corner spot with the departure of Stewart. Sails led the team with 13 pass breakups. Up-and-comer DB Myles Wolfolk put together a respectable freshman campaign with two pass breakups, one forced fumble and tied for the team lead with two interceptions. Leading sack producer DE Malik Carney (5.5) returns to a defensive line that should be able to bring pressure form their traditional 4-3 formation. Backed by the return of starting middle LB Cole Holcomb, UNC is in line for vast improvements compared to a season ago.
A common theme among the ACC at the moment remains the question of who will be the best starting quarterback for UNC. After showing glimpses against the Hurricanes, Elliott found his groove at the position, passing for nine touchdowns to just two interceptions over his final three games. Entering his sophomore year, Chazz Surratt is fighting to recapture the reins of the offense in the battle to start. There are also a pair of freshman looking to take their shot at the big chair this season as well.
Why Miami Will Win
For this Hurricane coaching staff, there is plenty of film, game notes and player tendencies to study which will give them a good grasp of what Fedora and the Tar Heels will throw their way on game day. This will be the first ACC game of 2018 for the Hurricanes. With their own ambitions of winning the coastal division, the Tar Heels serve as a roadblock in Miami’s pursuit of their first ACC championship. Miami has the personnel across the roster to not only thrive, but to give those UNC fans the beatdown they were expecting a year ago.
Why UNC Should Be Taken Seriously
The pungent odor of Fedora’s desperation will plume throughout the season for 2018. Resulting in more fourth down attempts, trick plays and anything to not only save his job, but to scrape a win. WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams, if the Heels’ can figure out the QB situation, will be a problem for both Miami and the ACC. For the UNC to be considered a legitimate threat in 2018, Ratliff-Williams—who amassed 630 receiving yards, six touchdowns and even threw the ball occasionally—could be the catalyst for the Tar Heels to transcend from afterthought to contender.
Should UNC find a reliable QB play—a trait that every ACC team is searching for—then UNC could be one of the sneakier teams this year. With the exception of Thursday, September 27th when the Hurricanes host the Carolina blue and white in the latest edition of this ACC series. This time around, former UNC TE Eric Ebron won’t be slicing and dicing the ’Canes for big gains.
IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT THE U!