Miami Football: 5 Keys to the Game vs. North Carolina
The Miami Hurricanes welcome the North Carolina Tar Heels on Saturday in a Coastal Division matchup.
North Carolina is currently 1-1 in the ACC and 4-2 overall. It comes in a winner of three straight games, including a victory over Virginia Tech.
The Hurricanes are No.1 in the ACC at 3-0 and 4-2 overall. They are coming off a miserable game in which they lost to Notre Dame, 42-3.
Miami's defense will once again be a deciding factor against North Carolina as the Tar Heels are ranked 9th in the country in scoring offense (44 points per game).
Here are five things the Hurricanes must do to possibly win this game.
Stop UNC Quarterback Bryn Renner
The new-look Tar Heel offense is simply amazing so far this year. They enter the game scoring 44 points per game, No. 9 in the country.
The person that runs this prolific offense is junior quarterback Bryn Renner. On the season, Renner has completed 121-of-193 passes for 1,616 yards, 15 touchdowns and four interceptions.
What makes Renner most dangerous in this game is the Tar Heels ability to run the ball, making him a very dangerous weapon for the Hurricanes to defend.
Let's be honest, the Hurricanes pass defense is horrible as they give up 259 yards per game through the air (No. 91 in the country).
The Hurricanes defensive backs and linebackers need to cover a lot better than they have so far this year because Renner is the best pure-passing quarterback the Hurricanes have faced all year.
Air It out
Normally I would say Miami needs to establish the run to control the clock but let's be honest, UNC has the ability to march right down the field and score a touchdown in less than four minutes every time they get the ball.
That being said, I believe the Hurricanes need to air it out like they did against North Carolina State. The Tar Heels give up 226 yards in the air (ranked No. 62 in the country) and Miami should be able to take advantage of that.
I understand that the time of possession wouldn't be in Miami's favor but it hasn't been in any game this season, not even in the one against Buthune-Cookman.
I don't mean to eliminate the run completely, but more screens would be wise as running Duke Johnson up the middle just doesn't make sense to me.
Overall, I think the only way the Hurricanes can keep up with UNC's offense is by airing it out to Rashawn Scott, Phillip Dorsett, etc.
As long as they decide to catch the ball this game.
Win the Turnover Battle
Defensively, the Hurricanes haven't been able to stop anyone they have played this season so creating turnovers becomes a much larger ordeal.
So far, they have done pretty well, but in their two losses, the Hurricanes have gotten just one turnover and that was an interception of Collin Klein in week 2.
The Hurricanes have created 12 turnovers this year (six against North Carolina State) and if they want to beat UNC, they will need at least three more.
Offensively, the Hurricanes can't afford to turn the ball over. Unlike most teams who can get away with a couple, Miami can not because it would force the defense to get back onto the field—and we know how bad of an idea that is.
If Miami can create four turnover and not give UNC more than one, the Hurricanes will have a good chance to beat the Tar Heels—if the Hurricanes can actually capitalize on them—something they haven't been able to do very well all season.
In both Hurricane losses this season it was costly mistakes that gave both Kansas State and Notre Dame an early lead.
Against the Irish, the Hurricane receivers dropped multiple passes, including a wide open touchdown by Phillip Dorsett. That touchdown alone would have given a huge momentum swing to the Hurricanes.
Then there were the penalties—nine of them, to be exact—and it was the timing of the penalties that hurt the most.
I counted one penalty on fourth down (which was a bogus call—the Hurricane player got pushed into the punter) and three flags on third down. That's four penalties that kept drives alive for Notre Dame, which ultimately turned into Irish points.
Costly mistakes and penalties have been brutal for Miami all season, and if the trend continues this weekend, the Hurricanes will be in for a long afternoon.
Prevent Giovani Bernard from Reaching 200 Rushing Yards
The title to this slide might be an exaggeration, but the way the Hurricanes defense is struggling, my biggest fear is North Carolina running back Giovani Bernard.
Going into last weekend's game against Virginia Tech, Bernard had 213 yards on 29 carries for the season. He now has 475 yards as he lit up the Hokies for 262 yards on Saturday.
Bernard missed a couple games earlier this year due to injury, and with him being back to full speed may cause enormous trouble for the Hurricane defense.
The Hurricanes must figure out a way to stop Bernard from running all over the field while also limiting big pass plays from Bryn Renner.
It's a dilemma, and I'm not sure how the Hurricanes defense will stop the duo, but if Miami doesn't at least slow down Bernard, they will lose this game.