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Canes vs. Tarheels Preview and Prediction



Credit: Grant Halverson

The rivalry between the Miami Hurricanes and the North Carolina Tar Heels is set to escalate as they face off in a critical ACC matchup. UNC, steered by quarterback Drake Maye, has exhibited a formidable passing game with Maye tallying 1,629 yards and eight touchdowns. Their offense, also proficient on the ground with an average of 174.2 rushing yards per game, is complemented by Omarion Hampton who has chalked up 461 yards and seven touchdowns. Conversely, the Hurricanes are pinning their hopes on Tyler Van Dyke’s arm, which has delivered 1,330 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with a robust ground game averaging 211 yards per contest led by Henry Parrish Jr. with 379 yards and four touchdowns.

UNC is on a quest to maintain their unblemished record, striving for their first 6-0 start since the 1997 season, while Miami, shaking off a recent upset against Georgia Tech, aims to advance to 5-1 on the year. Adding spice to this matchup is the recent historical trend of the series with UNC winning the last four meetings between the two sides.

Keys to Victory:

Maintain Offensive Momentum: The Tar Heels need to harness their offensive firepower, particularly their aerial assault led by Drake Maye, to unsettle Miami’s defense. The Tar Heels are scoring an impressive 36.6 points per game this year. If Maye has time in the pocket, he is at least a top two quarterback in the nation. If UNC finds success with a multi-dimensional attack and both Maye and Omarion Hampton are clicking, it will be a long night for the Canes.

Another important factor for the Tarheels is their defense. With an allowance of 19 points per game, UNC’s defense must thwart Miami’s dynamic ground game to clinch a win. The Canes coaching staff is aware of the challenge the Tarheels pose on defense as Mario Cristobal and the Canes coaching staff view the Tarheels defense as a top unit in the nation.

The Hurricanes need to surmount the road challenge, a task made more daunting post their disappointing loss to Georgia Tech. In the past the Canes have faltered and given up, they have built a reputation of quitting and being mentally frail. This week will be a test for the Canes as they try to recover from a disappointing loss and go into hostile territory in a prime-time game on the road. In order for the Canes to win they will need to be able to employ a balanced offensive game plan exploiting both the passing and rushing lanes could be key in piercing UNC’s defense. The Canes showed they were able to do this the first four weeks and were successful in running and passing the ball against Texas A&M which poses a stouter defensive line than the Tarheels. Tyler Van Dyke will need to be patient and not try to force the deep pass. If TVD can take what the offense gives him in the short and intermediate game, that will open up the running lanes and force safeties to move towards the LOS and in turn open wide open opportunities for the deep pass.

ACC Implications:
A triumph for UNC would further cement their lead in the ACC, continuing their undefeated run, and edging closer to a noteworthy 6-0 start since 1997. On the flip side, a victory for Miami not only enhances their ACC standing but also acts as a significant morale booster post their previous loss. The stakes are heightened, with both squads keen on elevating their ACC rankings and keeping their playoff aspirations intact. A win for Miami will would show that they are in fact a different team from years past form a mental and physical standpoint. Miami can control their own destiny in terms of reaching the ACC Championship if they beat UNC on Saturday.

X Factors:
Tez Walker: The NCAA recently reversed their decision regarding Walker and have allowed him to participate in the 2023 season after his case was reviewed and “new information” came to light that allowed the Ken State standout to be ready to go for the high profile matchup. Walker had 58 receptions for 921 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2022 for Kent State and a versatile weapon like that with Maye as his quarterback is a nightmare for any opponent. Coach Guidry has his work cut out for him this week.

Tight Ends: So far Miami has used the tight ends primarily for blocking. But we have seen in glimpses the talent Riley Williams posseses and his scoring ability was displayed in the Gergia Tech game. Williams will be joined by Arroyo who mad ehis way back from injury last week and now has a game under his belt. Miami has the middle of the field open and if TVD and Dawson can feed their tight ends they will put UNC’s linebackers in uncomfortable spots, not to mention that it would give the Canes a three-pronged attack with legit weapons on the outside, the middle and at the running back position. If the tight ends get loose the Canes will force UNC’s defense to stretch and allow the Canes playmakers to operate in space.

The narrative of UNC’s dominance over Miami in recent years, winning the last four encounters, adds an extra layer of intrigue to this matchup. Both the Tar Heels and the Hurricanes are coming into this game with high stakes, making the Miami-UNC clash a pivotal game in determining the ACC pecking order as the season progresses. With that being said, I think Miami is a different team with a different mentality. A the beginning of the year I predicted a nine win season. The Canes outside of one bad game in which they should have won have looked dominant on both sides of the ball. I believe the Canes are the more talented team along both lines of scrimmage and I expect them to assert their will by the second half of the game. I expect a competitive game in the firs thalf and the Canes pulling away in the second half.

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