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UNC Football Preview: North Carolina vs. Miami

The Tar Heels will look to right the ship against Miami and finish the current homestand with a 2-1 record.

Last time North Carolina and Miami met on a football field, Javonte Williams had arguably the most re-watched highlight of the 2020 college football season.

If you are a Miami fan or a child you should shield your eyes. The following video is not pretty. However, Hurricanes were harmed during the filming of this video:

In all seriousness, Carolina absolutely embarrassed Miami 62-26 last December down in Florida in what was billed as a tight game and an important one in determining who might ultimately land in the Orange Bowl. The Tar Heels racked up 778 yards of total offense (a single game record for UNC), more than double the Hurricane’s 314. Sam Howell didn’t have to do much in the air (14-for-19, 223 yards, one touchdown) because Michael Carter (308 yards, two touchdowns) and Javonte Williams (236 yards, three touchdowns) ran wild as part of a Carolina ground game that totaled an NCAA-record 554 yards. Howell did achieve the unique feat of tallying a touchdown in three different ways – passing, rushing, and receiving.

Suffice it to say that the Hurricanes will be looking to exact a measure of revenge in Kenan Stadium on Saturday.

The Tar Heels will be looking for their own bounce back after a flat performance last weekend against Florida State. UNC was not the only ACC team to struggle at home last week. In an anomaly, there were five games contested between ACC opponents in Week 6, each of them won by the visiting team.

Curiously, while this will be Miami’s sixth game of the season, it will be just their second ACC game and first true road game.

The big news out of Miami this week is that preseason Heisman candidate Miami quarterback D’Eriq King is going to miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury which will require surgery. This means that, similar to last week against FSU, Carolina’s defensive preparation will involve question marks surrounding the opposing signal caller. More on that in a minute.

Wins in back-to-back seasons have allowed Carolina to even the series record with Miami at 11 all. With a third straight win, UNC would take a 12-11 series lead against their Coastal division opponents.

Let’s dive into what we can expect to see on both sides of the ball to help the Tar Heels achieve that goal.

TAR HEELS ON OFFENSE

Following the first two losses of the season (Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech), the Tar Heel offense bounced back with strong showings against Georgia State and Duke. Will Sam Howell and company be able to do the same this week against Miami?

Howell desperately need a complement to Josh Downs. While Downs continues to have an elite season (49 receptions, 741 yards, seven touchdowns), no other receiver has more than 16 receptions (Kamari Morales) or 243 yards (Emery Simmons). With Beau Corrales out, no receiver has risen to the occasion.

Morales has been reliable (one-quarter of his receptions have been for touchdowns), scoring a touchdown in four straight games, but doesn’t come close to matching Downs’ output.

Simmons and Antoine Green are the prime candidates to take pressure (and attention) off of Downs. Khafre Brown would be an excellent field-stretcher, but only has one reception and has dropped multiple passes.

Ty Chandler has been solid in the backfield, averaging 80.7 rushing yards and 20.5 receiving yards a game. The problem is that Sam Howell has been the most dynamic and reliable runner for Carolina, which simply won’t be sustainable season-long. Chandler, DJ Jones, and Caleb Hood must rise to the occasion.

The offensive line stepped up last week, allowing just one sack after surrendering a combined 13 in the two previous games. Their ability to protect Howell is key to the success of the offensive unit.

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TAR HEELS ON DEFENSE

Replacing King at quarterback for Miami will be freshman Tyler Van Dyke, who has started each of the previous two games. On the season Van Dyke is 25-for-41 for 473 yards and four touchdowns. He is yet to throw an interception.

Thankfully for the Tar Heels, Van Dyke does not possess King’s mobility. He has 14 rushes for just six yards and one touchdown.

Cam’Ron Harris is far-and-away Miami’s leading rusher, with 383 yards and five touchdowns on 65 attempts. Harris also has 11 receptions for 119 yards and a touchdown.

The Hurricanes have four other receivers with double-digit receptions, led by Charleston Rambo’s 31 for 387 yards and two touchdowns. Joining Rambo as receiving threats are Xavier Restrepo (10 receptions, 200 yards, one touchdown), Mike Harley (22 rec, 193 yards, two TDs), and Key’Shawn Smith (13 rec, 166 yards, 0 TDs).

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
  • L 35-25 | vs. Florida State

MIAMI

  • L 44-13 | vs. (1) Alabama
  • W 25-23 | vs. Appalachian State
  • L 38-17 | vs. Michigan State
  • W 69-0 | vs. Central Connecticut
  • L 30-28 | vs. Virginia

Here’s all the nitty-gritty details you need to know about Game 7 of the 2021 UNC football season:

North Carolina (3-3, 2-3) vs. Miami (2-3, 0-1)

Chapel Hill, NC
Kenan Stadium
Saturday, October 16, 2021
3:30pm ET
ACC Network

All-time Series: Tied 11-11
Series Streak: UNC won 2
Last Meeting: Saturday, December 12, 2020 | Miami Gardens, FL | 62-26 UNC
Last Time UNC won: Saturday, December 12, 2020 | Miami Gardens, FL | 62-26 UNC
Last Meeting in Chapel Hill: Saturday, September 7, 2019 | 24-20 UNC

NORTH CAROLINA
Record: 3-3 (2-3 ACC)
Head Coach: Mack Brown (Florida State, '74)
Overall Record: 262-135-1, 33rd year
Record at UNC: 87-59-1, 13th year

MIAMI
Record: 2-3 (0-1 ACC)
Head Coach: Manny Diaz (Florida State, ’95)
Overall Record: 16-13, 3rd year
Record at Miami: 16-13, 3rd year

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