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Film Preview: UNC Tar Heels at Miami Hurricanes

UNC travels to Miami for a Thursday night matchup

NCAA Football: North Carolina at East Carolina James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The 1-2 UNC Tar Heels travel to Miami Gardens, FL to face the 3-1 Miami Hurricanes on a Thursday night national showcase game. The ‘Canes will host UNC at 7pm eastern on ESPN. UNC coach Larry Fedora is firmly situated on the hot seat after losing to Eastern Carolina. The Heels are 77th in the nation per the S&P+ analytics system, while Miami has climbed to 16th overall per the metric.


UNC quarterback Nathan Elliott is entrenched as the starting quarterback. Elliott averages only 6.43 yards per passing attempt on the season while tossing three touchdowns and four interceptions. Antonio Williams has ran for 257 yards averaging 6.6 yards per carry and three touchdowns on the season. He’ll be the main threat to stop for the Miami defense in the run game. Flanked out at receiver the most dangerous Tar Heel is Anthony Ratliff-Williams. Ratliff-Williams is averaging 20.9 yards per catch but the issue will be can Elliott find enough time to connect with his star receiver against the Miami defensive pass rush?

The best defender for UNC is defensive end Malik Carney who has been suspended but the thought is it will be lifted by Thursday. Safety JK Britt is also a good defender who has logged 13 tackles in 2018.

Power vs Miami’s Defense

The three most important blocks on this power play UNC runs are in the image above. The (black) combination block on the front side of the play which allows one of the linemen to block the backside inside linebacker. The play side kick out (green) on the defensive end has to be clean and push the end into the linebacker. The wrap (yellow) from the back side guard is the third most important. He has to pick up the front side inside linebacker.

The running back attacks to strong side A-gap and rips off a big touchdown run against the Pitt Panthers on 4th and 1.

Mid-Field Passing vs Miami’s Defense

Any middle of the field passing gives me cause for concern. Here, UNC feels man coverage and runs a curl flat with their outside receiver on the curl and the back running into the flat. I can see mass confusion for Miami, maybe more-so with the flat than even the curl. Here, Pitt is in man coverage and that causes the linebacker to have to run through the curling receiver and cornerback that is in man against him.

That’s a long way to run for a linebacker and the traffic he sees is pretty thick.

Until Manny Diaz proves his linebackers can drop into coverage- I’m not sure why teams aren’t more persistent on picking apart the middle of the field with stick routes or crossing routes.

Zone Stretch vs UNC Defense

This is a pretty basic Outside Zone “pin-pull” stretch play that we’ve covered often here on SOTU. To the play side, the guard will pull if he’s “uncovered” or has no defensive lineman outside or head up on him (directly over him).

Pitt uses a numbers advantage with UNC being heavy to the Panthers right side (UNC’s left) and Pitt can pull around play side and outnumber the Tar Heels. The MLB for UNC is too far away to make a play on the ball carrier. I can see Deejay Dallas and Travis Homer feasting on misalignments like this for big runs.


Miami should have a field day against a weak UNC roster that’s been marred by suspensions and the loss of a game due to Hurricane Florence. UNC is weak in all three phases of the game and this could be Larry Fedora’s last season in Chapel Hill.

Miami, should Coach Richt start N’Kosi Perry, should be much improved over last year’s clunky offensive performance. Thursday night games are always strange ones for Miami and this will be no difference.

Prediction: UNC 13 - Miami 27