CHAPEL HILL, N.C. –– The Tar Heels will host No. 25 Miami for a primetime matchup tonight in Kenan Stadium.
The game could have major implications in the ACC championship race with both teams having a lot at stake.
For North Carolina, they’re desperate to hang onto their perfect record as they inch closer to top-10 rankings. They currently sit at No. 12 and if they break the barrier, they will end a years-long drought of the Tar Heels being considered a top contender in the CFP.
UNC (5-0, 2-0 ACC) is coming off a season-high in points after a beatdown over Syracuse last Saturday. On the flip side, Miami (4-1, 0-1 ACC) is coming off a gut-wrenching defeat at the hands of Georgia Tech.
The Hurricanes maintained possession of the ball late in the fourth quarter with a 20-17 lead over the Yellow Jackets. Instead of taking a knee, however, they opted to run the ball with 33 seconds remaining, a decision that ended up being a costly mistake for the Hurricanes.
Running back Don Chaney Jr. fumbled the ball directly into the hands of the Yellow Jackets, opening up a 44-yard touchdown by quarterback Haynes King to Christian Leary. It was the first time Miami was involved in a one-score game and if they had decided to kneel-down they would have ultimately won.
Miami head coach Mario Cristobal, who is in his second year at the helm, has faced some harsh criticisms for his play-calling choices. As he tries to rebuild a team that went 5-7 in 2022, he’ll be looking to come back from the loss, weapons blazing.
One of those weapons is quarterback Tyler Van Dyke whose QBR rating is 84.5 ranking second in the league behind UNC’s own Drake Maye who has a 85.8 QBR.
It will be another battle of the quarterbacks as Van Dyke too has a solid relationship with his receiving core. He consistently targets Xavier Restrepo and Jacolby George – a pair who have combined for seven touchdowns across their five games. They’ve got the speed and talent to match up with UNC’s defense, a core that has been incredibly efficient by way of linebacker Cedric Gray and defensive back Alijiah
The matchup between Huzzie and Restrepo will be worthy to watch as well. Ranking second in the ACC with 36 catches and third in receiving yards (478). Huzzie needs to be able to lock down Van Dyke’s top target and put that pressure on him to catch looks elsewhere.
Miami also has size on the defensive front and they’ll be the most productive line UNC will face at this point in the season. They have three transfers who make up the starting lineup along with 2022 All-ACC DT Leonard Taylor. If the Tar Heels want to see some success tonight they’ve got to limit their run game and rely on their receivers. But this shouldn’t be a problem for Drake Maye who currently sits among the best in the country with his 1, 629 passing yards and has the added depth with the return of Tez Walker to the field.
North Carolina is playing its best football yet with four of their five wins being over Power 5 opponents. Miami’s lone loss was against Georgia Tech. They had an early victory against Texas A&M, but their competition since then has tapered off after facing Bethune-Cookman and Temple – games where they held their opponents to just seven points in each contest.
This game is a must-win for UNC if they hope to keep pace with Louisville and Florida State, programs that claim the top two spots among ACC schools.
Who: North Carolina (5-0) vs. Miami (4-1)
When: Saturday, October 14th, 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
Last Meeting: UNC, 27-24
All-Time: UNC leads the series 15-11