Miami shifts focus to North Carolina and Coastal Division


After their seventh straight loss to the Florida State Seminoles, the number 16 Miami Hurricanes shift their focus to their goal of winning the Coastal Division when they host the North Carolina Tar Heels Saturday.

Moving On

In the last few years, the Hurricanes would fold after losing a tough, physical, and emotional game against their rivals from Tallahassee. Mark Richt‘s coaching staff faces the challenge of continuing and sustaining the effort the ‘Canes displayed in their 20-19 loss last Saturday Night.

Coastal Division Hopes

North Carolina was defeated and shut down by the Virginia Tech Hokies last week 34-3. If Miami can emerge victorious in their next two games (Saturday against UNC and October 20th at Virginia Tech) they are in the driver’s seat for the Coastal title. Here are the standings thus far:

  • Virginia Tech | 4-1 (2-0 in ACC)
  • Wake Forest 5-1 (2-1)
  • Miami | 4-1 (1-1)
  • North Carolina | 4-2 (2-1)
  • Pittsburgh | 4-2 (1-1)
  • Georgia Tech | 3-3 (1-3)
  • Duke | 3-3 (0-2)

It’s pretty simple for the ‘Canes: win out. Miami controls their own destiny in their run to make their first ACC Championship Game appearance. Can they regroup after putting everything on the line against FSU?  Miami continues their toughest stretch of the season with games the next three weeks against North Carolina, Virginia Tech, and Notre Dame.

A Look at North Carolina

Miami got manhandled and embarrassed by the Tar Heels 59-21 last season. The ‘Canes defense gave up 487 yards and seven touchdowns and led 31-0 at halftime.

Miami has some bulletin board material for motivation this season. In spite of an uncharacteristic performance offensively against Virginia Tech, North Carolina has a high-powered offense this season. The ‘Heels average 425.3 total yards per game, 299.8 passing yards, and 125.5 rushing yards per game. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky heads the offense and ranks 6th in the nation in pass completion percentage at 70.2 percent.

Trubisky has multiple targets including leading receiver Ryan Switzer (49 receptions, 589 yards, and two touchdowns). Switzer has 32.5 percent of UNC’s receptions on the season. Behind Switzer, the Tar Heels like to spread the ball to multiple receivers. Seven receivers are on pace for over 20 catches this season.

UNC frequently runs an up-tempo offense that could give the Miami defense trouble. The ‘Heels have a dynamic backfield with Elijah Hood and TJ Logan. The both offer the ability to score in the running and passing game.

The Phantom Menace

One of the biggest reasons Miami lost to Florida State was due to offensive inefficiencies Coming into the FSU game, Miami ranked near the top nationally in most statistical categories offensively. The running game had been particularly strong.

As Miami faces tougher opponents, the running game will likely diminish. The ‘Canes averaged 270 rushing yards per game in their first three games against nonpower five opponents. In conference play, the running game has dipped to 88 yards per game, that is not a recipe for success.

The book is out on how to stop Miami: put six to seven men in the box and pressure on the quarterback.  This is exactly what defensive coordinator Charles Kelly of Florida State implemented. Brad Kaaya took a beating from the Seminoles’ pressure and threw a critical interception in the end-zone. Playcaller and head coach Mark Richt needs to start making adjustments and show some wrinkles in the play calling. The ‘Canes have become very simplistic and predictable.

Another issue presenting itself within the ‘Canes offense is the third down conversion rate. Miami ranks 58th in the country on third-down conversions with a rate of .414 percent.  The Hurricanes will struggle if they cannot convert on third down. That failure puts a tired defense back on the field. The ‘Canes need better play calling from Richt and better execution from the players on the field.

Next: Miam Hurricanes Change Bank United to Watsco Center.

Against North Carolina, Miami will need to put up points to stay in the game. Can Richt make adjustments? Can the team rebound and generate momentum for the Coastal Division title?