Miami Hurricanes Football: Key Matchups vs. North Carolina


With Larry Scott now as interim coach, the Miami Hurricanes are 2-0 (6-3, 2-2 in the ACC) after the diminishing loss to Clemson, and still have aspirations to win the Coastal. A few things must happen in order for Miami to get there. Miami has to win out and North Carolina (8-1, 5-0 in the ACC) has to lose two more games. It’s not impossible, but the Canes will have to play strong to finish the season.

The 23rd ranked Tar Heels are 8-1 after a opening loss to South Carolina. They are on the verge of clinching the Coastal Division. Yet, unlike Miami, they have played one ranked opponent all season — Pittsburgh. So one might say that the Tar Heels have had much easier path to winning the division, because they did not have to play the top two teams in the ACC, Florida State and Clemson.

Either way, Miami stands in their way and will put their record to the test this Saturday. Let’s look at some key match ups for the Hurricanes:

QB Marquise Williams vs. CB Artie Burns

Quarterback Marquise Williams is performing at a high level this year, and is a major factor to the team’s success this season. His statistics consist of: 142-215 in completions/attempts, 2117 yards passing, 15 TD’s, 7 INT’s, 84 attempts rushing, 558 yards on the ground, 6 TD’s. North Carolina’s offense is philosophical similar to Clemson, which Miami had much trouble with in the blow out loss. Mobile quarterbacks tend to give Mark D’Onofrio’s defense match up problems in the zone read game and in space.

Luckily, cornerback Artie Burns will be back today to play against the high powered offense. Burns leads the ACC with five interceptions on the year. Not only has he been playing exceptional all season, he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder after the loss of his mother. Last week, he sat out to personal and family reason which is understandable for any man in this situation. Miami will need him to make some big time plays in a big time game.

Brad Kaaya and the Miami Receiving Corps vs. UNC Defense

Brad Kaaya is coming off his first game back from receiving a concussion against Clemson. Last week, Kaaya played good enough for Miami to get the win with 286 yards in the air with a pair two touchdowns and one interception. If Kaaya follows the model of limiting turnovers, he will give Miami a good chance to win. Much of the Canes’ success on the offensive side of the ball is predicated on their wide receivers. The Stacy Coley resurgence in 2015 has given Hurricanes a lethal threat in the air. (7 catches for 132 yards, one touchdown vs. UVA). Not only is Coley an option, Rashawn Scott, Herb Waters, and David Njoku have also given opposing defense’s great peril.  Their production is related to the job of receiving coach, Kevin Beard. All of them are playing at a high level thanks to him. But, how will they fair against the North Carolina defense?

Under new defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, former head coach at Auburn, the North Carolina defense is playing much better this season. The Tar Heels are 54th in total defense, allowing an average of 218.7 on the ground and 158.8 in passing defense. The North Carolina pass defense is the 2nd best in the nation. Compared to last year, the average yards allowed are drastic. They allowed an average of 240.5 yards on the ground, and 257.4 in the air last year to opposing offenses. ‘

Miami had their way against the UNC defense last year with a huge game from Duke Johnson. Obviously, things have changed since then.

So can James Coley win this chess match today? Tune in at 3:30 ET on ESPNU.