Struggling North Carolina Hosts No. 8 Miami: What To Watch For

Photo: Miami Hurricanes

Miami Seeks Their 12th Straight Win, And Look To Avoid A Trap Game In Chapel Hill

The No. 8 Miami Hurricanes (6-0, 4-0 ACC), have lost their last two outings against the North Carolina Tar Heels (1-7, 0-5 ACC). North Carolina outlasted Miami 20-13, at Hard Rock Stadium last year then two years ago the Tar Heels dismantled the Canes 59-21 in Chapel Hill. North Carolina, expected to be in a rebuilding year this season, still feel confident in their ability to beat the Hurricanes for a third time as they scheduled Miami for homecoming.

The most significant reason for North Carolina’s struggles this year has been depth, via injuries. Last week in their 59-7 loss to Virginia Tech the Tar Heels were missing nine starters, and a total of 16 players are out for the year. But Miami head coach Mark Richt refuses to take the Tar Heels lightly.

“There’s not a major change that I see when one guy gets hurt, and they put another guy in, which is typical. On defense especially, which I do study more of that than the offense,” said Richt.

What’s At Stake

With the first College Football Playoff Rankings coming out Tuesday the Canes can ill-afford to lose to a 1-7 team. A lost Saturday at North Carolina would all but knock Miami out of playoff contention.

However, with a victory Miami can put themselves in prime position to make a playoff run. The Canes are one of eight teams undefeated teams in the FBS, with two of the teams not in a Power Five conference (South Florida, Central Florida).

Teams will jockey week-to-week for playoff position and in the end four teams will have shot at a National Championship. Miami must avoid the trap this week and get out of Chapel Hill healthy. A win means next week’s game vs. Virginia Tech is an ACC Coastal ‘defacto’ Championship game.

North Carolina Offense

PHOTO: SUN-SENTINEL .COM

Defensive Coordinator Manny Diaz can’t catch a break as Miami prepares for another up-tempo offense. But due to the Tar Heel injuries the Hurricanes should thrive in Saturday’s matchup. North Carolina’s offense is inefficient, they convert 27 percent of their third downs and posses the ball for 25:48 during the game. They are therefore ranked 126th and 123rd in the FBS, respectively.

Look for the Turnover Chain to come out early and often with the Tar Heels rank 112th in the nation with 16 turnovers. North Carolina has given up 21 sacks this season, even with an experienced offensive line.

HURRICANES DEFENSIVE BACK MICHAEL JACKSON. PHOTO: MIAMI HURRICANES

“You have to just watch what they do schematically,” Richt said. “When you do have two different quarterbacks, even if they’re similar in style, they’re still different in how they’re used a lot of times. I think they’ve both played enough where Manny [Diaz] will have a pretty good feel of what each kid can do and how they’ve been at least used in the past.”

North Carolina Defense

The Tar Heel defense allows 451.1 yards per matchup and gives up 34.6 points per game. The Hurricanes will have an easy time moving the ball Saturday, coming into Chapel Hill averaging 474.8 yards per game and putting up 33.3 points per contest. If Miami doesn’t overlook North Carolina they will have a lot of success offensively against the Tar Heel defense.

Senior offensive lineman KC McDermott knows the Tar Heels will bring their best shot for Homecoming.

“You know, they are a good team. You can’t ever look at a team’s record and be like ‘oh they’re a bad team’,” said McDermott. “A lot of people want to make a big flair about Virginia Tech beating them by so much. Virginia Tech’s offense only scored 17 points. That’s a good defense.”

Miami Offense

No one seems to have an answer to Miami’s slow starts on offense this season. Since Miami has started ACC play they’ve averaged just five points per contest in the first quarter and only 13.25 points per matchup in the first half. In last week’s 27-19 win vs. Syracuse Miami generated ten points off four turnovers in the first half. Hopefully, the Canes can find early success Saturday at Kenan Stadium.

Hurricanes quarterback Malik Rosier continues to be productive and consistent this season. Rosier has 16 total touchdowns, three interceptions, ranks second in the ACC in passing yards per game (285.8) and third in total offense per game (317.7). The Tar Heels give up 227.8 yards through the air so Rosier will have close to a career day in Saturday’s matchup.

HURRICANES QUARTERBACK MALIK ROSIER. PHOTO: MIAMI HURRICANES

The receiving corps from Miami let Rosier down last week, dropping five catchable balls. Sophomore receiver Ahmmon Richards had four of those drops last week.

“That is on me. I have never had a game like that in my life. I don’t want to have that feeling again,” said Richards. The sophomore has been battling a hamstring injury since training camp and will look to get back into rhythm.

Miami running back Travis Homer has filled in nicely since the injury to pre-season All-ACC running back Mark Walton (ankle). Although not as explosive as Walton, Homer comes into Chapel Hill averaging 7.3 yards a carry. Look for Homer to get his heaviest workload of the season as North Carolina gives up 223.4 yards on the ground.

Photo: Miami Hurricanes

Prediction

Miami’s defense will overwhelm North Carolina’s offense, harassing their quarterbacks with four-plus sacks and at least two turnovers. The Hurricanes offense will move the ball at will Saturday with Rosier and Homer both having career days.

Miami 37- North Carolina 17

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