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Week 2 Preview: Miami @ North Carolina

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Miami opens ACC play against a pesky division foe in a primetime clash.

NCAA Football: Miami at North Carolina
The Hurricanes travel to Chapel Hill this weekend, which has been a perilous place for them in the past.
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Hurricanes have had time to marinate on their Week 0 loss to the Florida Gators, but after a Week 1 bye, the Canes return to action this weekend. UM will travel to Chapel Hill and take on the North Carolina Tar Heels, in the ACC opener for both teams. The Canes (0-1, 0-0) lost to UF 24-20 two weeks ago, while UNC (1-0, 0-0) began their season with a 24-20 victory over rival South Carolina last weekend.

In the two program’s last meeting, Miami won in resounding fashion, defeating UNC 47-10 last season. However, a lot has changed since that game; in particular both sides have new head coaches and new quarterbacks leading the way.

UM’s redshirt freshman QB Jarren Williams made his first ever collegiate start in Week 0, and he completed 19 of his 30 passes, throwing for 214 yards and one touchdown. Williams showed excellent poise for a freshman, but the big question surrounding the Canes is whether they can keep Williams upright.

The QB was sacked ten times in the opener, and UM was only able to convert two of their 14 3rd downs into first downs. The Canes are sticking with the same starting offensive line from the UF game, so all eyes will be on the o-line to see if they can keep Williams off the ground.

Last Saturday, UNC finished with three sacks and seven tackles for loss. A key player for UNC’s defense in Week 1 was linebacker Chazz Surratt, the former QB who was a standout last week. Surratt finished with 12 total tackles. Two other players were critical to UNC’s success on defense. Senior DL Aaron Crawford finished with six total tackles, one sack, and two TFLs last week, while senior DB Myles Dorn had seven total tackles against South Carolina.

Meanwhile, despite a few lapses, Miami’s excellent defense didn’t skip a beat after finishing 4th in the nation in total defense last season. UM’s defense forced four UF turnovers, Additionally, UM’s defense helped Miami dominate the time of possession battle, as the Canes offense stayed on the field for 36:13, compared to UF’s offense only being on the field for 23:47. Miami’s defense will look to make life difficult on UNC’s true freshman quarterback, Sam Howell.

Howell went 15-24 for 245 yards and two touchdowns last week. The Tar Heels seemed to outperform South Carolina even more than the score suggested, as UNC outgained the Gamecocks 483-270, and UNC converted 23 first downs compared to South Carolina only converting 15.

In addition to Howell starting this weekend, the biggest difference in this matchup is the head coaches. Of course, Manny Diaz is going to be leading the Canes, but for UNC, Larry Fedora was replaced by Mack Brown as the head coach of the Tar Heels.

Brown is most well-known for his tenure as the head coach of Texas, where he coached from 1998-2013. Over his time with the Longhorns, Brown went 158-48, which includes winning the national championship in 2005. However, before coaching Texas, Brown was the head coach at North Carolina. In his first stint with the Tar Heels, Brown finished with a record of 69-46-1, and he was in charge of UNC from 1988-1997.

One fascinating storyline heading into this matchup revolves around the two head coaches in this game. Diaz served as the defensive coordinator from 2011-2013 under Brown, and we will see if the apprentice can beat the teacher.

Although UNC is starting a true freshman QB, and just last year they finished a lackluster 2-9, Miami absolutely can not overlook this game. As early as two years ago, 6-0 Miami traveled to play 1-7 UNC, and the Canes barely walked away with a 24-19 victory. Coming off of an early statement win against a rival, as well as the fact that UNC’s Keenan Stadium will be sold out, UM must be ready to take care of business.