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UNC Football Preview: North Carolina vs. Florida State

Mack Brown is 0-10 all-time against his alma mater. Will he be able to break that streak on Saturday?

Mack Brown will face his alma mater Florida State for the 11th time in his career on Saturday, but he has literally never beaten the school from which he holds his degree. To this point, teams coached by Brown are 0-10 against the Seminoles.

Brown came oh-so-close to breaking the streak last season when Carolina had a furious second half comeback from 24 points down only to fall just short on the final series of the game. Sam Howell drove Carolina to the FSU 41, but three straight incomplete passes (including a dropped pass on fourth down from a wide-open Javonte Williams) led to a turnover on downs and a Florida State victory. It was UNC’s first loss of the season.

It’s been more than a decade since these teams met in Chapel Hill. The last matchup in Kenan Stadium was on October 22, 2009, with FSU winning 30-27. The Tar Heels held an 18-point second half lead, but a Christian Ponder touchdown pass with 6:20 left in the fourth quarter gave FSU the go-ahead and winning points.

The last time Carolina won in the series was in 2009 when Nick Weiler nailed a 54-yard field goal as time expired to give the Tar Heels an improbable 37-35 victory. Mitch Trubisky and Ryan Switzer each had monster days, with Trubisky completing 31 of 38 passes for 405 yards and three touchdowns and Switzer hauling in 14 catching for 158 yards. Carolina held a 21-7 halftime lead and the teams traded touchdowns throughout the second half (six combined touchdowns in nine possessions) allowing FSU to take a 35-34 lead with just 23 seconds remaining (the Seminoles had just blocked a Weiler PAT). In just three plays (23 yards to Mack Hollins, incomplete pass, defensive pass interference) Trubisky got the Tar Heels to the FSU 37, setting up Weiler for the biggest kick of his life. Re-live that final drive here: 

The Seminoles hold the all-time series edge over Carolina 16-3-1, however the Tar Heels have won two of the past three and the last four games in the series have been decided by three points or fewer.

FSU holds a dismal 1-4 (1-2) record so far this season. Their results have been interesting. The Noles nearly knocked of No. 9 Notre Dame on opening weekend, falling by three points in overtime. The next week though, they lost at home to Jacksonville State on a touchdown as time expired. FSU finally picked up their first win of the season last week against Syracuse with a 34-yard field goal as time expired.

Although FSU’s record is not good, Carolina can ill-afford to overlook Mike Norvell’s team, as the Tar Heels learned last year.

This will be just the second road game for FSU this season, losing the first such affair 35-14 at Wake Forest.

Should the Tar Heels come away victorious, they will bump their conference record over .500 for the first time this season.

In truth, while the two conference road losses have hurt, the Coastal is wide open. Pittsburgh (1-0) and Virginia Tech (1-0) are at the top of the heap, but they’ve each only played one conference game and have plenty more opportunities to lose, including a game against each other. Carolina needs to take care of business one week at a time and allow the rest of the division to beat up on each other.

TAR HEELS ON OFFENSE

Different week, same story for Carolina on offense. The Tar Heels will rely on Sam Howell, Josh Downs, Ty Chandler, and an ever-emerging Kamari Morales to shoulder the skills positions load.

Two dominant questions on offense.

No. 1: What other candidates emerge as reliable receivers to help draw attention away from Downs?

No. 2: Can the offensive line give Sam Howell more time to operate?

TAR HEELS ON DEFENSE

The biggest question Jay Bateman’s defense waits to see: Who will start at quarterback for Mike Norvell: Jordan Travis or McKenzie Milton?

The question seems to have been answered with Travis appearing at the top of the depth chart that FSU released for the game.

Not so fast though, Travis was listed as the backup last week and ended up starting and playing the entire game.

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Both quarterbacks saw time in the first three games of the season, with Travis starting game one, and Milton starting games two and three. However, game four was all McKenzie Milton and game five was all Jordan Travis.

What does this mean for the Tar Heels? They have to be ready for both quarterbacks.

Should it be Jordan Travis, the Tar Heels will have to do a better job containing him. The air is not the problem – last year Travis completed just 8 of 19 passes last year for 191 yards and a touchdown against UNC. The concern is Travis in the running game. Last year against Carolina he ran 16 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

It’s pretty cut and dry: if Jordan Travis is FSU’s quarterback tomorrow, Jay Bateman must devise (and the players must execute) a better plan for stopping him in the running game.

Who are the other names to know for Florida State’s offense?

Jashaun Corbin is the leading running back, having 504 yards and four touchdowns on 62 attempts (all team highs). Corbin also averages an eye-popping 8.1 yards per carry. Treshaun Ward is the next running back up, averaging 7.7 yards per carry on 37 attempts for 285 total yards and two touchdowns.

Unlike the Tar Heels, who have one dominant receiver, the Seminoles have really spread things around in the receiving game. WR Ontaria Wilson, WR Andrew Parchment, and TE Camren McDonald each have over 100 receiving yards this season, but no one has more than Wilson’s 133.

Parchment, McDonald, Ward, and Corbin each have double-digit receptions, but no one has more than Corbin’s 14.

Eight different players have receiving touchdowns, but none more than Parchment’s two. The other seven players on that list each have one.

PREVIOUS GAMES

UNC

  • L 17-10 | @ Virginia Tech
  • W 59-17 | vs. Georgia State
  • W 59-39 | vs. Virginia
  • L 45-22 | @ Georgia Tech
  • W 38-7 | vs. Duke

FSU

  • L 41-38 | vs. (9) Notre Dame
  • L 20-17 | vs. Jacksonville State
  • L 35-14 | @ Wake Forest
  • L 31-23 | vs. Louisville
  • W 33-30 | vs. Syracuse

Here’s all the nitty-gritty details you need to know about Game 6 of the 2021 UNC football season:

North Carolina (3-2, 2-2) vs. FSU (1-4, 1-2)

Chapel Hill, NC
Kenan Stadium
Saturday, October 9, 2021
3:30pm ET
ESPN

All-time Series: FSU leads 16-3-1
Series Streak: FSU won 1
Last Meeting: Saturday, October 17, 2020 | Tallahassee, FL | 31-28 FSU
Last Time UNC won: Saturday, October 1 | Tallahassee, FL | 37-35 UNC
Last Meeting in Chapel Hill: Saturday, October 22, 2009 | 30-27 FSU


NORTH CAROLINA
Record: 3-2 (2-2 ACC)
Head Coach: Mack Brown (Florida State, '74)
Overall Record: 262-134-1, 33rd year
Record at UNC: 87-58-1, 13th year

FLORIDA STATE
Record: 1-4 (1-2 ACC)
Head Coach: Mike Norvell (Central Arkansas, ’05, ’07)
Overall Record: 42-25, 6th year
Record at FSU: 4-10, 2nd year

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