The Tar Heels continue their winning ways and are now at.500 on the year (5-5), the first time since winning against Middle Tennessee during the second week of the season.
North Carolina has certainly changed their season around and has worked their way to the middle of the pack in the Coastal Division, a place where many might not think the Tar Heels would be towards the end of the season.
Now, the Tar Heels take their schedule out of conference, as they host Old Dominion Saturday afternoon, with kickoff coming at 12:30 in Kenan Stadium.
Even though this is an out of conference opponent and one that isn't part of the big six conferences, make no mistake about it, this is going to be a big game for both teams with a lot on the line.
For North Carolina, it gives them a chance to become bowl eligible, something that wasn't in the picture early on in the season. It also could keep the Tar Heels momentum heading into their final game against currently ranked Duke, who makes the travel to Chapel Hill next week.
For Old Dominion, it gives them a chance to take on another ACC opponent and continue their winning ways, as they come in on the season with an 8-3 record but is 0-2 on the season against ACC teams (Maryland and Pittsburgh).
Now, Tar Heel Illustrated will take a look at the two teams, as they come together Saturday afternoon for on out of conference battle between two teams that certainly know how to move the ball on offense.
When looking at these two teams, the first thing that has to pop out about these two teams is the offensive stats and ability to move the ball.
North Carolina has been able to put up points in all sorts of ways, whether it has been on offense, defense, or special teams, as the Tar Heels have been able to increase their points per game to 28.1 on the season.
However, the Monarchs have been able to put up a staggering 44.4 points per game, both with their throwing ability and rushing attack. They have over 4,000 yards passing the ball and over 1,600 yards on the ground, both which are higher than the Tar Heels on the season.
The last time the Tar Heels came up with an offense like this was against the East Carolina Pirates, in which the Tar Heels struggled throughout the day stopping the high powered offense, in what was a 55-31 loss in Chapel Hill.
Times have changed, as the defense certainly has changed their ways, being able to get more into the opponent's backfield, while being more physical in the trenches and with their wide receivers.
This is a game that the defense will have to be the key aspect of the game, while they have to step up and get physical with the Monarchs. The Tar Heels have 25 sacks on the year but will have to see that number increase against quarterback Taylor Heinicke[/b], who has completed over 71 percent of his passes this season for 32 touchdowns.
The Tar Heels were able to have their best game on the defensive line last week against Pittsburgh, getting seven sacks in the game. [db]Kareem Martin and Norkeithus Otis should be ready to put pressure on Heinicke and the run game, as the Tar Heels can't allow the Monarchs to control the ball offensively and move up and down the field like the Pirates did in Chapel Hill.
Even though the Monarchs might be able to move the ball, getting stops at the right time will be key; not allowing Old Dominion to reach the end zone. Limiting them to field goals or third downs will be a huge factor in this game and would provide a huge momentum towards the side of North Carolina.
When looking at Old Dominion though, the Monarchs have played two opponents the Tar Heels have also played, which are East Carolina and Pittsburgh, both games that the Monarchs lost. Larry Fedora could dissect those games and see what weaknesses Old Dominion might have. Against East Carolina, the Pirates threw for 447 yards and five touchdowns against them and while at Pittsburgh, the Panthers were able to run for over 250 yards in the game.
Looking at those numbers, there will be opportunities for quarterback Marquise Williams, as he certainly can throw the ball but now is the leader in rushing yards for the Tar Heels with 326 yards on the season.
On the year, the Monarchs have given up 2,051 yards rushing and 2,654 yards passing to their opponents; so the Tar Heels offense should be chomping at the bits in this game to make plays.
Quinshad Davis (who has eight receiving touchdowns this season) and Eric Ebron (the leading receiver for the Tar Heels) could and should have a big day in the passing game against a defense that certainly gives up a lot of yards (427.2 yards per game given up by Old Dominion).
Furthermore, if the Tar Heels can get points on the board like they have in their recent four game winning streak, such as in defense and special teams (especially looking at the recent work from Ryan Switzer in the return game), all are positive factors that can help the Tar Heels continue their winning ways.
Staying ahead of the game will be a point to focus on and not allowing the Monarchs to jump out ahead early on the Tar Heels. The Tar Heels would certainly love to be able to run their offense and control the clock, limiting the possessions for the Monarchs.
With the recent ground game coming around with Williams and the running back rotation, it could certainly help run the clock down and limit the amount of possessions that Old Dominion has. With limiting the amount of possessions for the Monarchs, that also helps the defense, as the Tar Heels will know that creating one turnover or forcing one three and out, limits the offensive ability of Old Dominion to keep up with North Carolina.
No matter what though, this could be an offensive show on Saturday between two offenses that are really hitting stride towards the end of the season.
Even though this is an out of conference game for both teams, North Carolina will look to finally get to the six win mark to become bowl eligible, while Old Dominion looks to get their first win against an ACC team this year.
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