- After benching veteran QB Malik Rosier for N'Kosi Perry last weekend, Miami head coach Mark Richt must decide whether to start the redshirt freshman in the Hurricanes' ACC opener against North Carolina on Thursday night.
UNC Tar Heels vs. Miami Hurricanes (-18)
Thu. 9/27, 7:00 p.m. ET
Three things you need to know before betting on UNC-Miami:
1. When Miami’s offense gets going, look out. Over the past three seasons, the Hurricanes are 14-3 against the spread after a game where they score 28 or more points, and 10-3 against the spread after they've outgained their opponents by two or more yards per play. Last week’s 31-17 win over Florida International puts Miami right in line with both of those trends, giving Hurricanes fans reason to believe that head coach Mark Richt’s offense just might be receiving a shot in the arm the rest of the season.
2. The reason the Hurricanes were able to get things going last week was Richt’s decision to finally replace senior quarterback Malik Rosier. In a little over a year as Miami’s starter, Rosier has been largely unable to make throws over the top and was far too inconsistent to lead a team with high expectations. Richt finally had enough last week after his team struggled to score against its Group of Five opponent. Redshirt freshman QB N’Kosi Perry—who appears to be heading toward the first start of his career against UNC this week—changed everything once he got the nod. Perry completed 17 of 25 passes for 224 yards, three touchdowns and only one pick against FIU. He also added nine rushes for 32 yards. Like Rosier, Perry has a natural ability to make plays with his legs. But it’s Perry's willingness to attempt difficult throws that will help this Miami offense take it to the next level. Plus Perry’s accuracy is impressive, especially given his youth. He gets the ball out quickly and puts it into the hands of his playmakers. With a more efficient passing game, look for a boost in production from running backs Travis Homer, Lorenzo Lingard and DeeJay Dallas. They’ll no longer be facing stacked boxes.
3. In quarterback Nathan Elliott, UNC head coach Larry Fedora appears to have settled on somebody he can trust to lead his offense. Last week, the junior threw for 313 yards with two touchdowns in a 38-35 win over Pittsburgh. And the Tar Heels running game got it going as well, with 173 yards and three touchdowns in that game. Against Miami, it’s imperative that the team establishes further success on the ground. The problem is that the Hurricanes have one of the best defenses in college football. The Hurricanes have allowed just 224 yards per game on the season (second in FBS) and 18.5 points per game (29th). Those numbers are especially impressive given that Miami faced a formidable Week 1 opponent in LSU. The run defense is the strength of this Hurricanes team, so it’s going to be tough for the Tar Heels to gain any traction this week. And when Elliott is facing situations where the Miami defense knows he’s throwing, he's bound to make mistakes. Coordinator Manny Diaz’s unit is as aggressive as they come, and his defenders will be eager to rock the turnover chain on a night where plenty of college football fans will be tuned in.
Pick: Miami -18
Confidence level: Moderate (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)