North Carolina is looking to end the regular season on a high note. The 20th-ranked Tar Heels (7-3) head to Miami to take on the 9th-ranked Hurricanes (8-1). Kick-off is set for 3:30 Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium (TV: ABC, Radio: WBT)
This game has huge implications for the Tar Heels. A win over the Canes would move them to 8-3 on the season and in-line for a potential Orange Bowl bid. Lose, and they fall to a seemingly mediocre 7-4. UNC is coming off a 40-point rout of Western Carolina last Saturday, while Miami shutout Duke 48-0 for their fifth straight win.
The Hurricanes only loss came to top-ranked Clemson by a score of 42-17 back in week four. “They’ve improved so much from last year and they’ve improved so much since their Clemson game,” said UNC Coach Mack Brown. “It doesn’t even look like the same team. So, they’re deserving of a top-10 team in the country.”
Miami boasts an outstanding defense allowing 366 yards per game (1st, ACC), and gives up just 22 points a contest (31st, FBS). They’ve got an excellent front seven, led by dynamic defensive ends Jaelin Phillips and Quincy Roche. The pair has combined for 10.5 sacks and each has 14 tackles for loss, ranked 6th in the nation. The secondary is aggressive, led by safety Bubba Bolden, who leads the team in tackles and has forced four fumbles. They’ll be looking to slow down UNC’s explosive offense, which is averaging over 41 points and 534 yards per game (5th, FBS).
The Heels also feature two of the best running backs in the game in Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, who have combined for 1,841 yards and 23 touchdowns. The Hurricanes have had issues against the top offenses they’ve faced, giving up a total of 550 yards to Clemson, 516 yards to Louisville, and 410 yards to NC State, respectively.
The Hurricanes are no slouch on offense either. They average 34 points and rack up 445 yards of offense per game (26th, FBS). They’ve got one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the country in senior D’Eriq King. The Houston transfer is a dual-threat and that’s not something UNC fans want to hear. The Tar Heels have had all sorts of problems containing running QB’s this season, most recently Notre Dame’s Ian Book. The elusive King has thrown for 2,334 yards with 20 touchdowns to just four interceptions. He has also ran for 467 yards and four more scores.
King’s favorite target is speedster Mike Harley, who has 43 catches for 653 yards and five touchdowns. Junior Cam’ron Harris leads the ground attack, with 567 yards and 8 touchdowns on the season. Donald Chaney Junior is a change of pace back with three scores. You might be surprised to hear that the Heels have won three of the last five meetings with the Hurricanes, including last season’s last-minute comeback win in Chapel Hill.
But UNC haven’t beat a top 10 team since 2004. That just so happened to be over then 4th-ranked Miami, when Connor Barth kicked a last-second field goal for the Heels 31-28 win. Can they do it again? They’ve got the firepower to get it done – if the defense can make some stops, UNC has a chance to pull off the upset in South Florida.