The Miami Hurricanes are still searching for their first win as they pay a visit to the North Carolina Tar Heels this weekend in an ACC Coastal division clash. Game time is set for 8:00 EST on Saturday, September 7 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Fans can watch the game on the ACC Network.
Oddsmakers list the Hurricanes as 6-point road favorites with an over/under of 49 points. Click here to check out all of this week’s college football betting odds.
Miami and new head coach Manny Diaz have had an extra week to recover from their season-opening loss to Florida. The Hurricanes had a good showing against the Gators, dominating time of possession and forcing four turnovers. However, they struggled to move the ball in the second half and couldn’t hold onto their 13-7 halftime lead, ultimately losing 24-20.
But better days could be ahead for the Hurricanes. None of the 11 teams left on their schedule are currently ranked. They are also set to play five straight games at home after this week’s road trip to North Carolina, so the schedule is quite favorable moving forward. The Coastal division is there for the taking, but Miami needs to recover quickly from their loss to Florida and win their ACC opener.
Meanwhile, the season opener couldn’t have gone any better for Mack Brown in his return to North Carolina. The Tar Heels played border rival South Carolina last week and overcame a 20-9 deficit in the final quarter to win 24-20. Despite a slow start to the game, the Tar Heels dominated South Carolina statistically, and so the comeback win was well-deserved.
That win was just what the Tar Heels needed to open the season after winning a total of five games over the past two seasons. But now UNC needs to keep it going with the start of ACC play. Again, the Coastal division is wide open, and a win over Miami would signal to the rest of the division that North Carolina is a legitimate threat to win the Coastal this season.
The Tar Heels will also be looking for a little redemption after losing to Miami 47-10 last season. It was the most lopsided loss the Tar Heels have suffered at the hands of Miami since the Hurricanes joined the ACC. Needless to say, Brown and company would love nothing more than to turn the tables on Miami.
I was as surprised as anyone that North Carolina won last week. But the win definitely wasn’t a fluke against a solid SEC team on a neutral field. Meanwhile, Miami showcased some serious flaws against Florida, even if their defense gave them a chance to win. I think those flaws could inhibit the Hurricanes from winning on the road this week. If nothing else, I think this will be a close game, so I’ll lean toward the Tar Heels to at least beat the spread.
Miami’s biggest problem in their season opener was the offensive line, which allowed 10 sacks against Florida. To be fair, the Tar Heels don’t have the same caliber of pass rushers as Florida, so things should improve for Miami. But UNC has enough quality pass rushers to take advantage of such an obvious weakness for the Hurricanes. If Miami can’t protect quarterback Jarren Williams, it will inhibit their entire offense.
It’s hard enough for Williams being a redshirt freshman who’s starting at quarterback without having to worry about his offensive line. The Hurricanes also struggled to run the ball in their opener, averaging just 2.4 yards per carry. Again, part of that is Florida have loads of talent on defense. But there are clearly issues with Miami’s offensive line, which will make it difficult for the Hurricanes to run the ball and protect the quarterback against any team.
On the flip side, the North Carolina offense showed plenty of promise last week with their own redshirt freshman quarterback in Sam Howell. In his first career start, Howell was solid, going 15 for 24 for 245 yards with two touchdowns. More importantly, the UNC rushing game was as advertised, racking up 238 yards against a South Carolina defense that looked solid on paper coming into the season.
To be fair, the Miami defense shined against Florida, holding the Gators to just 50 rushing yards and creating four takeaways. I have no doubt that Diaz and company will be able to throw stuff at Howell that makes him uncomfortable. But the Tar Heels have been consistent at running the ball in recent years, so I think Javonte Williams and Michael Carter will continue to be productive. Plus, the Miami secondary is a little vulnerable if the Tar Heels can establish the ground game and give Howell time in the pocket.
In the end, I can’t get past how bad the Miami offensive line was in the opener. Overall, the Hurricanes are surely the more talented team. But I don’t know how the Miami offense expects to score points consistently until they fix their O-line issues. Until I see better, I’ll remain skeptical of the Hurricanes. Thus, I’ll lean toward the Tar Heels as home underdogs.