The No. 10 Miami Hurricanes will go for their sixth straight win when they host the No. 17 North Carolina Tar Heels in an Atlantic Coast Conference game on Saturday.
Miami (8-1, 7-1 ACC) will try to avenge last year’s 28-25 loss at North Carolina. The Tar Heels (7-3, 6-3), who lost to No. 2 Notre Dame 31-17 on Nov. 27, will get another chance at a win over a top-10 team.
Miami, 4-0 at home this season, is a 3.5-point favorite. The Hurricanes beat Duke 48-0 last week despite having 15 players out due to injuries, coronavirus and other issues.
“There were five or six other players that we found out could play just one day before the game,” Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz said. “We’re hoping the list of players out will be much shorter (than 15) this week.”
Despite missing five key defensive players against Duke — including full-time starters in cornerback Al Blades, linebacker Zach McCloud and defensive tackle Jonathan Ford — Miami forced five turnovers and missed just one tackle, according to Pro Football Focus.
Credit goes to numerous players, including Quincy Roche, who was named ACC Defensive Player of the Week after netting three tackles for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Defensive tackle Jordan Miller and linebacker Waynmon Steed made their first career collegiate starts.
For the season, Roche and fellow Miami defensive end Jaelan Phillips are tied for third in the league in tackles for loss per game (1.56).
North Carolina, though, will be a much tougher test for Miami’s defense.
Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell, who beat Miami as a freshman last year, ranks ninth nationally and first in the ACC in passing yards per game (312.9).
North Carolina’s offense is second in the ACC in points (41.1), which is in stark contrast to the team Miami just played (Duke, 23.8 points, 13th place in the league).
The Tar Heels have three players who could go over 1,000 yards for the season on Saturday: running back Michael Carter (937), wide receiver Dyami Brown (932) and running back Javonte Williams (904).
Williams, a junior who leads the league and is tied for second nationally with 19 touchdowns, could bolt early for the NFL in April.
“We would never tell a junior, ‘We really want you to come back,’ ” North Carolina coach Mack Brown said. “Come on, man. That’s not fair to them.”
Carter ranks fourth in the ACC in rushing yards per game, third in total rushing yards and second in yards per carry (7.1). Williams is fifth, fourth and third in those carries, getting 6.7 yards per carry. Brown is second in reception yards per game.
Defensively, North Carolina isn’t nearly as good, ranking seventh in the league in points allowed (28.6).
Miami will test that defense with quarterback D’Eriq King, who ranks third in the ACC — behind only Howell and Clemson star Trevor Lawrence — in total offense (311.2 yards per game). King has passed for 2,334 yards and has run for 467, fulfilling his reputation as a dual threat.
Hurricanes receiver Mike Harley is ninth in the league in reception yards per game (72.6).
Miami’s other playmakers include stellar tight ends Brevin Jordan and Will Mallory, who have combined to catch 40 passes for 590 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
On the ground, the Hurricanes have three running backs who have combined for 1,031 yards: junior Cam’Ron Harris and freshmen Donald Chaney and Jaylan Knighton. Those three backs have combined to score 14 total touchdowns, including 12 rushing.
–Field Level Media