Miami vs. UNC prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins between the Hurricanes and Tar Heels on Saturday in Miami Gardens, FL.
Miami vs. UNC Game Preview
When: Saturday, Oct. 15 – 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FL
TV Broadcast: ABC/ESPN2
The Hurricanes (4-1, 1-1 ACC) could not end their hex against Florida State last week, as they lost their seventh straight contest to the Seminoles when kicker Michael Badgley had his point-after attempt blocked with 1:38 remaining. The ‘Noles escaped with a 20-19 victory, handing Mark Richt his first loss as the Hurricanes head coach.
Meanwhile, the Tar Heels (4-2, 2-1) were dominated at home last week by Virginia Tech in a game that featured heavy rain due to Hurricane Matthew. Hokies quarterback Jerod Evans recorded three touchdowns, while Bud Foster’s defense stymied UNC’s prolific offense. UNC was, however, playing without injured running back Elijah Hood, who missed the second half against FSU after sustaining an injury just before halftime. Nonetheless, UNC failed to score a touchdown for the first time under head coach Larry Fedora.
In last year’s November meeting in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels used four Marquise Williams touchdowns and a 78-yard punt return score from Ryan Switzer to claim a dominant 59-21 win. The home team has won the past two meetings in this series by a combined 55 points.
What To Know About Miami
Despite the loss to FSU, this is a different Miami football team under Richt. Of course, the blocked extra point in the setback to the ‘Noles brought back bad memories from previous tough losses in that series. And it was yet another second-half lead over FSU that slipped away. But watching this team play, it does not resemble some of the underachieving Al Golden squads—and that’s huge. Quarterback Brad Kaaya, wide receiver Stacy Coley and the rushing duo of Mark Walton and Joe Yearby give the ‘Canes enough offensive firepower, while first-year coordinator Manny Diaz is leading a defensive revival in Coral Gables. It’s a team that has already made a lot of strides under Richt.
What to Know About UNC
Star quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who entered last week’s game as one of the nation’s top passers, finished with just 131 passing yards and threw his first two interceptions of the year against Virginia Tech. The Hokies scored 20 points off of four UNC turnovers, so it was a very sloppy effort by a Tar Heels squad that was coming off of an upset of Florida State in Tallahassee. Hood should play this week because Fedora was optimistic about him playing against the Hokies. Meanwhile, the UNC defense isn’t special, but it’s serviceable. Gene Chizik’s unit was put in tough spots several times last week because of turnovers. Five of Virginia Tech’s six scoring drives began inside the UNC 40-yard line. That’s unfair even for the best of defenses.
Offense: Even. This one’s tough, because both teams can put up points in bunches. One thing I do know, though, is that Trubisky should bounce back from his sloppy performance against the Hokies.
Defense: Miami. Diaz is overseeing a unit that is ranked No. 13 in the FBS in third-down conversion defense at 28.2 percent.
Special Teams: UNC. Switzer’s 78-yard punt return score against the ‘Canes last year proved just how dangerous of a factor he can be in a game.
Coaching: Miami. Richt has changed the culture in Coral Gables in a short amount of time, with the latest example being Monday morning’s dismissal of highly touted freshman receiver Sam Bruce.
Intangibles: Miami. While the ‘Canes are coming off of a heartbreaking loss, Richt is a calming influence that should be able to get his team re-focused.
Matchup To Watch
Switzer vs. Miami punt return coverage
Switzer, who had 30 catches and 366 yards over his last two games heading into the Virginia Tech contest, was held to two catches for two yards—and he had a few drops, as well. But he can be a factor in the return game as well, as he owns the UNC and ACC records for career punt return yards. He is also just one score shy of tying the FBS record for punt return scores. One return can be a difference-maker for the Tar Heels in a critical ACC Coastal division matchup.
Spread: Miami -7
Over/Under: No Line
Miami vs. UNC Prediction
Both teams are looking to finish the season atop the Coastal division, so this is a big game. The ‘Canes really don’t have the best home-field advantage, and that’s no secret. But after last week’s close loss to FSU, this team knows that it is that much closer to becoming an upper-tier ACC team. UNC will look like the team we have been used to seeing over the last year following last week’s rough loss in sloppy conditions, but Chizik’s defense will be a little too leaky in a high-scoring affair.
Miami vs. UNC Score Prediction: Miami 38, UNC 31