There is no doubt about it here folks, the Tar Heels are searching for a win and this ACC matchup could be a season changing kind of win if North Carolina is able to take down the Hurricanes Thursday night, as North Carolina hosts the Miami Hurricanes at "Zero Dark Thirty."
The atmosphere will be alive in Chapel Hill and the teams will be playing a nationally televised game but it will be no easy task for the Tar Heels, as they face not only one of the top teams in the ACC but in the country with #10 Miami.
There isn't any doubt that the season hasn't gone as planned for the fans and for the team, as the Tar Heels have suffered three straight loses, are 1-4 on the season, and 0-2 in the ACC.
But, one can't understand what a victory like this could do for the Tar Heels, as it could change the whole season around and boost the confidence of the players, the staff, and fan club.
The Hurricanes have been reborn this season, after they have struggled in the past years to put it all together; now Al Golden and company seem to have everything in place for a team that could make a push at a national title this season.
If the Tar Heels have a chance Thursday night, they certainly will have to have a few breaks go their way, while capitalizing on mistakes and not hurting themselves on the field, something that UNC has done in all of their losses this season.
Tar Heel Illustrated goes in depth for the matchup between North Carolina and Miami on Thursday night.
The Tar Heels certainly have struggled a little more this year in their offense than they did last year but still have the weapons to move the ball down the field.
Bryn Renner didn't play last time around against Virginia Tech but it looks like he will be starting against the Hurricanes, however; there is no surprise if the Tar Heel faithful could see a little bit more of Marquise Williams after his performance against the Hokies, in certain situations.
The passing game hasn't been up to par for Larry Fedora and the numbers show it. On the year, the Tar Heels have only completed 61.6 percent of their passes for 11 touchdowns and five interceptions.
Last year through five games, the passing game already had 15 touchdowns and only four interceptions, showing how the Tar Heels has had trouble putting the ball in the endzone.
The Tar Heels are also shooting themselves in the foot, with costly plays and penalties, as UNC has over 33 passing plays on third and long (7-10 or more yards) and throwing for 430 yards on the season.
With so many plays in that type of yardage, it gives an answer of why the Tar Heels have struggled to move the ball, whether it was because of penalties or lack of offense.
If UNC wants to come away with any chance of a victory, they will have to stay out of third and long against that top passing defense.
Renner and the Tar Heels will also have to come out of the gate quicker this season, as they have only passed for one touchdown and rushed for three touchdowns in the first quarter, something that North Carolina was able to effectively last year.
The Tar Heels have several playmakers though on the outside that could give the Hurricanes some fits, as tight end Eric Ebron will look to continue is great season and certainly has gained the awareness of the Hurricanes defense.
But others such as Quinshad Davis, T.J. Thorpe, Ryan Switzer, and several others will have to step up for North Carolina and provide help to Renner Thursday night.
The Miami Hurricanes have been one of the top defenses in the country this season, as they have only allowed their opponents to complete 47.8 percent of their passes on the season, giving up two passing touchdowns and having nine interceptions on the year so far (they haven't given up a passing touchdown in the first three quarters in all five games this year).
For a passing offense such a North Carolina, Fedora and company will have to find different ways to get their players in space, while using several of them at different times throughout the game, much of what he has already done this year.
The Hurricanes have given up over 800 yards on the ground, but are limiting their opponents to 3.98 yards per carry and have given up seven touchdowns on the ground so far.
However, if the running game of Romar Morris, A.J. Blue, and freshman T.J. Logan (who had five carries for 25 yards against the Hokies and was a bright spot in the game) can get on track and provide a run game, while Williams coming in and giving the more athletic impact at the quarterback position, the Tar Heels could provide a balanced attack.
But the one true fact is that the Tar Heels, who have struggled terribly getting touchdowns in the redzone, will have to find ways of scoring more than field goals against a defense that has averaged giving up 16.0 points per game.
The defense had a few bright spots in the game against the Hokies in Blacksburg, but still gave up several back breaking plays, as Logan Thomas was able to torch them through the air for one of his best performances so far this season.
Well, the Hurricanes have a similar guy at quarterback leading them, as Stephen Morris is a 6-2 athletic quarterback that has an arm, throwing for 950 yards on the season and nine touchdowns.
Furthermore, one knows Morris will be looking to bounce back from a terrible game last year against the Tar Heels, where he threw 12 of 26 for 155 yards and two interceptions, his lowest total all season long in a game.
The Tar Heels have undoubtedly given up huge plays throughout the season through the air, as Tre Boston, Tim Scott, and several others will look to hit the refresh button and solidify some type of passing defense.
Through the air, the Tar Heels have been giving up over 12 yards per reception on the year and have allowed teams to throw for 1194 yards against them.
Last week, Morris was able to complete 17 of 22 passes for 324 yards and three touchdowns against the Yellow Jackets, the same team that Renner struggled with in Atlanta (went 14 of 29 for 218 yards).
But the passing game might not even be the strongest part of the Hurricanes offense, as a potential Heisman nominee in Duke Johnson has all the intangibles to be a great running back, as he has carried the load with 572 yards rushing and four touchdowns this season.
Johnson, paired with freshman Gus Edwards and sophomore [/db]Dallas Crawford[/db], bring a speedy and dynamic backfield that has the talent to cause issues for the Tar Heels.
The Tar Heels will have to limit their big time plays against these speedy playmakers and really focus on getting the backfield (the Tar Heels have given up 28 plays of 10 or more on the ground so far this season).
Linebacker Norkeithus Otis, who has three forced fumbles on the season already, will have to continue his play on the defensive end, while limiting the several penalties he has had so far this season, bailing out their opponents.
Other linebackers such as Darious Lipford (who has 5.5 TFL on the season), Travis Hughes, and Nathan Staub, along with Otis, will have to make wise decisions on the playing field Thursday night against the run game and passing game of the Hurricanes.
If not, the Tar Heels could be in for a long ride.
There is no doubt the defensive line will also have to be some kind of figure against a huge offensive line for the Hurricanes, as each player averages 313 pounds up front, with several games under their belt.
Overall, Fedora and his staff know that this will be a tough game but certainly believe in his players on what should be a great night of football, as several scouts will be out and about to see some talented players.
North Carolina will have to win the turnover battle, limit the big play ability of the Miami Hurricanes, score touchdowns and not field goals, while not shooting themselves in the foot; something that this team is capable of doing but just haven't put it all together so far this season.
If they are able, the Tar Heels certainly have a shot at another upset over a top 10 Miami squad and bring new life into the season.
But the Hurricanes know how to score points and run up and down the field, as they rank in the top 35 in passing and rushing yards, while averaging 45 points a game.
The Tar Heels have their work cut out for them, but anything can happen in college football and there is nothing more than the Tar Heels and their fans would love to do than upset another top ten team in Chapel Hill.
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