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Miami Hurricanes vs. North Carolina Tar Heels Preview and Prediction

Mark Richt

Mark Richt

The Miami Hurricanes and the North Carolina Tar Heels have had two entirely two different seasons.

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While the Hurricanes (6-0, 4-0 ACC) are still undefeated and are ranked eighth in the country, the Tar Heels (1-7, 0-5) have the worst record in the ACC. But with games against Virginia Tech and Notre Dame on the upcoming schedule, it is essential for Miami not to take North Carolina lightly.

The Tar Heels are coming off of a 59-7 crushing loss at Virginia Tech.

Miami was able to defeat Syracuse last weekend 27-19 behind 344 passing yards and two touchdowns from quarterback Malik Rosier. Running back Travis Homer’s 33-yard TD run iced the game late in the fourth quarter.

North Carolina and Miami are meeting for the 21st time overall and the 14th consecutive season. The Tar Heels lead the all-time series, 11-9.

Miami at North Carolina

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 28 at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Miami -20.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Travis Homer

In last week’s victory over Syracuse, Homer had another big game. He rushed for 95 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Now Homer and the Hurricanes’ offense will go up against one of the worst rushing defenses in the country.

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North Carolina is ranked 112th in rushing defense as they’re giving up an average of 223.4 yards per game. In the loss to Virginia Tech, the Tar Heels gave up 181 yards on the ground. So, look for the Hurricanes to try to establish the rushing game early on Saturday.

2. Tar Heels’ offense

In eight games this season, North Carolina is averaging 133 rushing yards and 201 passing yards a game. Not only were the Tar Heels hurt by player departures due to graduation and leaving early for the NFL draft, but Larry Fedora’s (above, right) team has been devastated by injuries this fall.

North Carolina has lost 16 players to injuries, including starters or potential starters. If the Tar Heels are to pull off a magical upset on homecoming, they will need to put together their best offensive showing of the season against a Miami defense that ranks third in the ACC in points allowed (18.7 ppg).

3. Hurricanes’ defense

Besides having problems simply moving the ball on offense, North Carolina also turned it over three times last week against Virginia Tech, including a 69-yard interception return for a score. Now the Tar Heels get to face a Miami defense that is among the best in the nation in turnover margin.

The Hurricanes have 12 takeaways this season and only four turnovers. That plus-eight margin (1.33 per game) is the fifth best in the FBS. In last week’s win over Syracuse, Miami intercepted Orange quarterback Eric Dungey four times. Prior to that game, Dungey had thrown just four total picks in seven games.

Final Analysis

It will likely take a lot of Chapel Hill magic for the Tar Heels to pull off the upset, but it has happened in this series. In Miami’s first season in the ACC back in 2004 the Hurricanes entered the game ranked fourth in the nation but North Carolina pulled off the upset, 31-28.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Miami

However, this Miami team is focused and the one looking for revenge against the Tar Heels, who have beaten the Hurricanes in each of their last two meetings. Miami surely hasn’t forgotten about its last visit to Chapel Hill, when North Carolina soundly defeated the Canes 59-21.

Expect Malik Rosier and Miami’s offense to have a huge day against a Tar Heels team that has been wrecked by injuries and is simply outmanned.

Prediction: Miami 41, North Carolina 10

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, the Miami Herald and the Palm Beach Post and is a reporter for Pro Player Insiders. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.