Coming off a disappointing last-second loss last weekend to Georgia Tech, Miami has an opportunity to notch its first conference win of the season against undefeated North Carolina.
Here’s what four members of The Miami Hurricane’s sports section are predicting for Saturday’s ACC battle.
Inexcusable. That’s what Miami’s loss to Georgia Tech was on Saturday.
However, what the loss brings is a turning point. Either the ‘Canes can use last week as motivation to the point where every player on the field is the best version of themselves, or the loss brings a lack of confidence that will be apparent against the University of North Carolina (UNC) Tar Heels next weekend.
Even at its best, Miami will experience a tough match against this North Carolina team – especially with its offense.
It is no secret that UNC quarterback Drake Maye is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and will indeed be heading to the NFL in the next draft. But what is a secret are the weapons that surround Maye.
In the running game, running back Omarion Hampton averages 5.2 yards per rush, and running back British Brooks averages 4.1 yards per rush. These two allow the play-action pass to be a real threat for the Tar Heels.
The pass-catchers that surround Maye constantly threaten to make a big play. Five UNC pass catchers have posted plays of 40-plus yards, and receiver Gavin Blackwell is just short with a 38-yard play.
With Miami allowing 250 yards through the air against Georgia Tech, the UNC offense will have easy success on offense, especially at home.
Prediction: North Carolina 42, Miami 24
Though less intriguing after Miami’s last-second collapse against Georgia Tech, this game still features two top-10 offenses. Maye is a legitimate Heisman candidate, and he’s one week removed from his best game of the season — 442 passing yards and three touchdowns in a 40-7 win over Syracuse.
But while the Tar Heels are rolling, Miami is reeling after Van Dyke threw three interceptions on Saturday in his worst game this year. It doesn’t help that the ‘Canes are on the road. Miami has played an away game this season — a 41-7 beatdown of Temple — but that was hardly a hostile environment.
How the Hurricanes deal with crowd noise and, more importantly, how they respond to last week’s blunder is what I’ll be watching on Saturday. If the ‘Canes come out with a vengeance and stun North Carolina at home, last week’s loss will be (somewhat) forgotten. If Miami lays an egg in Chapel Hill, Cristobal’s ill-advised decision to run the ball instead of take a knee against the Yellow Jackets will likely become the story of another disappointing season.
Unfortunately for the ‘Canes, I’m going with the latter.
Prediction: North Carolina 34, Miami 20
Saturday’s game vs. Georgia Tech was an extremely rough loss for a Hurricanes squad that was showing great promise as a rising ACC contender. Such a defeat, especially in the opener of conference play, is a massive blow to both Miami’s rankings and playoff chances, and it will need to respond with an inspired performance against North Carolina to prove itself and restore its confidence.
The Tar Heels currently sit at No. 12 in the AP Top 25 rankings, and they are no pushover with Maye under center, widely seen as a frontrunner for this year’s Heisman Trophy. The Hurricanes’ offensive struggles and game management were the main sticking points that cost them a five-game win streak to start the year, which will need to change quickly in order to keep pace with Maye and the Tar Heels’ offense. Cristobal and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson will need major adjustments to compete with UNC after a lackluster showing against Georgia Tech, uncharacteristic of their season so far.
With that being said, I believe that the Tar Heels will ultimately come away with the win on home turf on Saturday. Miami’s outing against Georgia Tech raised serious concerns over the team’s capability in conference play, and North Carolina is a massively tough step up after Georgia Tech.
Prediction: North Carolina 34, Miami 27
I don’t see how Cristobal gets his team up enough for a game of this magnitude. After last week’s meltdown against the Yellow Jackets, Miami is in a really tough spot going into Chapel Hill for a primetime showdown. This is UNC’s first real test, and it will bring the pressure at home. I don’t particularly believe in UNC’s defense, but Maye is one of the best passers in all of college football, and the Tar Heels’ offense will control the pace of the game.
Regarding the ‘Canes, Miami has proven the ability to run effectively on most teams but could struggle against UNC’s defense as stopping the run is the strong suit of its unit.
Overall, this should be a somewhat high-scoring, entertaining affair. I think the ‘Canes keep it close at halftime, but ultimately, the Tar Heels pull away in the second half, capturing a 37-24 victory.
Prediction: North Carolina 37, Miami 24
There’s no doubt that Miami became the clear-cut underdog in this game after getting upset versus Georgia Tech. The outcome of this game lies more on the Hurricanes’ offense than UNC’s defense. The Tar Heels are coming off a 38-7 route of Syracuse, holding their opponent to a season-low in points and building on their momentum. Van Dyke committed three interceptions this past contest, a season-high.
Ultimately, this game comes down to coaching and, offensively, the run game, which has periodically catalyzed this offense. The Tar Heels rank 35th nationally in opponent yards per game, allowing 118 each duel. Score-wise, I think this match will fare similarly to last year’s game.
Prediction: North Carolina 29, Miami 21