Cupcake season is over for the Hurricanes after three easily-won games, now conference play begins. On Thursday, North Carolina invades Hard Rock Stadium, trying to knock off the now 16th ranked Canes.
Miami is coming into the game at 3-1, and the Tar Heels stand at 1-2, picking up their first win of the season last week against Pitt. The Canes narrowly escaped Chapel Hill last season with a 24-19 victory, but Carolina bested Miami last time they visited South Florida, 20-13.
Miami will be in their “blackout” jerseys Thursday night, ones they wore against Virginia Tech and Wisconsin last season.
MIAMI’S QUARTERBACK DILEMMA
As everyone knows, the biggest story surrounding this game is, who is going to start at quarterback against North Carolina for Miami? Starter Malik Rosier was pulled after the second drive against FIU, and redshirt freshman N’Kosi Perry came in and threw three touchdowns.
Perry took the majority of the first-team snaps on Monday, but it was Rosier playing with the first-team on Tuesday. Rosier has struggled this season, completing only 52% of his passes. Perry has shined when he’s had the chance, throwing more touchdowns than Rosier and also having a completion percentage over 60%.
FULL Highlights from Miamis dominant win over FIU below #KosiErahttps://t.co/Fq6CE4ebFj— Richt Mitch (R|E) (@mitch_purdue) September 23, 2018
Coach Mark Richt hasn’t made a decision yet.
DEPTH AT RECEIVERS
No decision has been made if Ahmmon Richards is going to play against North Carolina on Thursday, having not played since being injured against LSU. However, Miami’s depth at the position has nobody really worried.
Jeff Thomas will play Thursday, after leaving the FIU game due to dehydration. Other receivers like Mike Harley, Lawrence Cager and tight end Brevin Jordan have also been picking up where Richards left off.
GETTING TO KNOW NORTH CAROLINA
2017 was somewhat of a rebuild year for the Tar Heels and coach Larry Fedora. Carolina went 3-9, and started off the new year 0-2, before defeating Pitt 38-35. Before the season, 13 Tar Heels were suspended for selling team-issued Jordans shoes, most of them for the first four games.
Fedora announced that quarterback Nathan Elliott will get the start after he shredded the Panthers defense last Saturday for 313 yards and two touchdowns. He’s completing 56.7% of his passes through the season.
Anthony Ratiff-Williams is currently the Tar Heels leading receiver with 230 yards. Carolina also average 166 yards rushing a game as a team, and had their season-high total last week with 173 yards.
On defense, the Tar Heels defense is giving up 33.3 points a game, as they returned several defenders from 2017. Against the run is where they struggle the most defensively, giving up 202.6 yards on the ground a game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH (MIAMI):
- N’Kosi Perry or Malik Rosier. For obvious reasons
- Gerald Willis III. One of the nations leaders in tackles for loss.
- Deejay Dallas. Miami’s running back is trying to bounce back after a rough performance against FIU.
PLAYERS TO WATCH (NORTH CAROLINA):
- Anthony Ratiff-Williams. Averaging 20.9 yards a catch.
- Malik Carney (DE). Top 10 in the ACC for sacks.
- Nathan Elliott. 71% completion percentage and no interceptions in UNC’s one win, 50.4% completion percentage with four interceptions in their losses.
- Anthony Ratiff-Williams vs Michael Jackson. Jackson allowed just two catches on Saturday against FIU for seven yards on six targets.
- Miami d-line vs UNC o-line. UNC has given up just one sack on the season, and averaging over 160 yards rushing, but they’ve given up 16 TFLs all season. Canes are first against the run, and have 11 sacks.
KEYS TO VICTORY (MIAMI):
- Force turnovers. Miami’s defense caused three interceptions and a fumble in a 24-19 victory over UNC last season.
- Keep establishing the run. Miami has rushed for over 200 yards in consecutive games for the first time since 2014. UNC is allowed 202.6 yards on the ground a game.
- Shut down the run. Miami is the best defense in the country against the run. UNC running back Antonio Williams went over 100 yards against Pitt, and averaged 16.0 yards a carry against ECU.
- Pick a quarterback.
- Don't let it be close. Carolina has the tendency to play Miami very tough. Four of the past seven matchups, its been a one-possession game.