The UNC Tar Heels are heading south to Miami Gardens to face the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday, December 12th at 3:30pm on ABC. The ‘Canes are the favorite in this matchup, in my opinion, by having played more consistent football than UNC over the course of the season. The Heels are 7-3 this season having lost to Notre Dame, Florida State, and Virginia. The Hurricanes are 8-1 having lost only to Clemson.
UNC is currently putting up 41.1 points per game on offense (12th of 127 in the FBS), while allowing 28.6 PPG (63rd of 127). While Phil Longo has been cooking as the offensive coordinator, Jay Bateman has struggled in year two as the defensive coordinator. Miami on the other hand is scoring 34.9 PPG (23rd in FBS) and allowing 22 PPG (30th of 127 teams).
ESPN has Miami as a 67.7% favorite to win the ball game (what is that thing really worth?) while Las Vegas has the home team ‘Canes with a 3.5 point spread as of Monday. Mack Brown’s squad really should’ve had a better season, and be 9-1 right now, but they’ve choked away two close games in 2020, which is very reminiscent of his time in Austin as head coach of the Texas Longhorns.
As many of you who obsessively stalk me on here and have created a shrine (or voodoo doll) to me at home know, I am a massive Phil Longo mark. I’ve both had the pleasure of watching him up close and in person at practice, on Zoom clinics, at the NC Coaches whatever at UNC, and on X&O Labs for years.
Coach Longo preaches completing passes, making the safe throw, taking deep shots that ‘only our guy can get’ and having a solid running game with a QB who is mobile enough to keep a linebacker honest.
UNC quarterback Sam Howell is, once again, a top tier ACC passer. Howell has thrown for over 3,000 yards in only 10 games. The sophomore QB has also averaged 10.5 yards per attempt and thrown 26 touchdowns to only six interceptions, while adding in another four TD’s on the ground.
Coach Longo uses a semi-Air Raid passing scheme with a mix of zone (inside zone read, split zone) and counter run game with RPO’s tagged on. Basically, the NCAA Offense at this point. The ball will be spread around to multiple receivers and backs, and Longo is big on completions and picking up first downs.
Above- one thing I do worry about is how well the Miami LB’s can run and cover Carter. Carter is an elite back who can run, catch, use power, speed, and has a great cut ability.
Howell is joined in the backfield by two runners who could eclipse 1,000 yards in an 11 game regular season. That duo of backs are Javonte Williams and Michael Carter. Williams and Carter have combined for over 1800 rushing yards and 23 TD’s while averaging 6.7 and 7.1 yards per carry, respectively. They’ve also combined for five receiving TD’s in 2020.
Above- you know I hate the red zone fade, especially on 3rd and goal, but hey if it works it works. Any call that works is a great call.
Speaking of the receiver room, WR Dyami Brown is one of the most dynamic receivers in the country. Brown has hauled in 51 balls for an 18.3 yards per catch average and eight scores. He’s joined by Dazz Newsome who is more of a possession receiver with 46 catches for 13.1 yards per grab and five TD’s. UNC also has a big play threat in Khafre Brown (22.8 yards per catch) and Beau Corrales (18.3 yards per catch).
Above- Miami’s defensive backfield play has to step up. Put Te’Cory Couch on Brown and let him run with their top threat. The dude has moxie.
The UNC offensive line allowed six sacks, eight tackles for loss, and a QB hurry against Notre Dame’s elite defensive line. Miami likes to boast about having an elite DL with Quincy Roche, Jaelan Phillips, and Nesta Jade Silvera as well as some talented younger players around that core. This is the game to really prove yourself for the NFL, as UNC’s O-Line is considered to be one of the best in the ACC.
Above- I had one ACC assistant tell me the Irish defensive line, and really front six or seven, are some bad dudes. They come hard and fast and want to put a hurt on you. Well, this is Miami’s time to prove that highly touted D-Line is up to the challenge ND has laid out there.
Above- the UNC defense is a 3-4 that hybrids easily into an event front. Bateman will typically use a 2-high safety look, and bring pressure from somewhere like a 3-4 team traditionally would.
Above- Show 5, bring 4, drop the one dude into the low hole, sack Ian Book. King has to be ready for this type of look, and pressure, to be in his face.
Against the Irish, the Tar Heels allowed 199 yards rushing (5.5 yards per carry) and three touchdowns on the ground. Ian Book also threw for 8.5 yards per attempt and a touchdown, while Notre Dame beat the Heels convincingly by a score of 31-17. WR Javon McKinley had an absolutely standout performance versus. UNC, hauling in six balls for 135 yards. UNC’s defense managed only two sacks and two TFL’s but did log six QB hurries versus the Irish.
Above- King, like Book, can scramble when needed. It’s an added weapon that he MUST use against UNC’s over aggressive, sloppy defense that can’t tackle.
UNC’s defense is led by linebacker Chazz Surratt. Surratt, a former quarterback, has 81 tackles, 7.5 TFL’s, and six sacks with one interception. He’s the elite playmaker that Bateman can stick anywhere to provide pressure or coverage.
Tomon and Tomari Fox have combined for 15 TFL’s and 9.5 sacks on the season. Defensive lineman Raymond Vohasek has 7.5 TFL’s and 3.5 sacks on the year as a six-foot-three, 295 pound lineman. That’s a load for the questionable Miami offensive line to handle.
Above- I need to see the Miami OL, Cam Harris and Don Chaney get it done against more than just a Duke team that blatantly has quit on Coach Cut and the 2020 season. This is what Harris looked like against Duke, but will he against UNC? I hope.
Linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel has four pass break ups, 66 tackles and 3.5 TFL’s with two sacks on the season. Defensive backs Patrice Rene and Kyler McMichael also have four PBU’s a piece. The UNC defense has been porous to big plays, especially in the passing game. That’s a positive for D’Eriq King, Mike Harley, Brevin Jordan and crew as they need to try to take advantage of the poor Tar Heel tackling and coverage.
This game will be another “Cardiac ‘Canes” affair. UNC is absolutely no joke, no matter how bad their defense has looked at times. It’s not like NCSU plays great defense and that was a close ball game, too. Both programs are coming off of a COVID layoff and a tune-up effort before this game. UNC beat up on Western Carolina while Miami slapped around ACC foe Duke.
Howell, Carter, Williams and Brown will get theirs. The question will be if Miami’s pass rush can get to Howell without having to bring pressure and create holes for Brown, Carter, and Newsome to make big plays. OC Phil Longo lives or dies on the deep ball, much like Bateman and Diaz-Baker live or die by the blitz.
My Canyonero Keys to Victory from the summer were to put pressure on Howell, to protect King, and to try to beat UNC deep. I think those all still stand in Week 700 of the 2020 season. Phillips and Roche need to keep the heat coming on QB’s. The Miami line needs to step up and King needs to use his mobility. And with how bad UNC is in the back five, Miami has to attack them deep with Mike Harley playing this well.
Odds are this game will come down to kicking, I hope Miami is ready for it.
Prediction: Miami by 1