Thursday, October 1, 2009

game preview: North Carolina

Date/Time: October 3, 12:00

TV: Raycom

Last matchup: UVA 16, UNC 13 (Highlights!)

Last week: UVA off; GT 24, UNC 7

Line: UNC by 13

Opposing blogs: Tar Heel Fan, and ACC Roundtable member Tar Heel Mania

Injury report:

OUT: S Matt Leemhuis, RB Dominique Wallace


QUESTIONABLE: QB Vic Hall, S Corey Mosley

PROBABLE: CB Chris Cook, NT Nick Jenkins, S Rodney McLeod, CB Chase Minnifield, RB Mikell Simpson

UNC season preview

Sweet. It's finally October, which means it's time to stop dicking around with the nonconference slate and time to start losing the games that really matter. And this is Carolina, so it really matters. I'm just happy the game's in Chapel Hill. I'll take my chances with the streak next season; this is not the ideal time to try and keep that going. Besides, there's a common thread to our post-bye-week struggles the past couple years: the games have been at home. This is a team that needs to focus on the game and not all the outside peripheral shit. That's best accomplished on the road.

One more reason to enjoy this game: It'll probably be the only one this year where we're the team ahead in the ACC standings.


- On defense, it all starts with the line. More so this week. Carolina hasn't been very good at keeping the pressure off of T.J. Yates. Getting some linemen in his face will be the thing to keep our suddenly-ailing secondary (did you see that damn injury report? I mean damn) from having to be the playmakers. Yates hasn't been too consistent this year either, and there's nothing like the close proximity of 280-pound bruisers with bad intentions to keep that pattern going. Moreover, Carolina's running game is a grinding, Big Ten-style attack. Stuffing it starts and ends with winning the battles in the trenches.

- More creative play-calling and new formations. We took a big lead on Southern Miss because they were thrown completely out-of-whack when we came out in formations and ran plays that looked nothing like the ones we'd run in the first two weeks. It's obvious by now we can't out-talent most of the defenses we'll face, least of all this one, so the coaches are going to have to coach their asses off and keep UNC off-balance.

- Take the time-of-possession battle to one extreme or the other. Look what Georgia Tech did in that regard. They just sucked the life out of UNC. Carolina is the closest thing to an old-school Big Ten team you'll see outside of that actual conference. They win with defense, they run the ball straight ahead, and they run when they want to and pass if they have to. How do you beat that kind of team? Either the Georgia Tech way, which is to run the ball 70 times and drain them of their will to live, or with demoralizing quick-strike big plays on offense, defense, and special teams.


- Regress. In any area. This seems obvious, but here's the thing: We took some baby steps against USM, but we're clearly not good enough to do the two steps forward, one step backward thing and win. We have to do everything well that we've done well in the past. Everything.

- Let their receivers run apeshit. Yates is iffy sometimes, but his receivers - particularly Erik Highsmith - have proven dangerous. They're not deep there and you know exactly who the targets are going to be, but the battle between Highsmith and whoever's covering him - Dowling probably - is going to be what decides if UNC's offense is one-dimensional and stoppable, or not.

- Bring wax-paper Jameel Sewell on the trip instead of last-game-in-the-OB Jameel. If he doesn't have ice water in the veins, we lose.


Heather says we got this. So, uh, hmm. I'd dismiss that out of hand but Heather's proven a prophet regarding our season so far, her only real miss being the idea that Groh wouldn't be on the hot seat with a bad season. Which was wackity to begin with.

Still, I just can't see us breaking the post-bye-week jinx we've been under for a while. If I do say so myself, the Carolina season preview has been one of the most right-on I've written. Carolina is who I thought they were: a team with an inconsistent offense that would grind the ball and ride the ups and downs of T.J. Yates, and use their shutdown defense to stay in the game. They're one of just ten teams in the country to hold offenses to less than four yards per play. A defense like that at home is one of the best things a football team can have going for it. And going against our lame offense? Carolina's offense would have to really, really stink up the joint. A low-scoring affair is in the cards here, as with last year, but so is our fourth loss.

In this case though I sure wouldn't mind letting Heather get the better of me again in the prediction arena.


Virginia Tech @ Duke, 12:00
Clemson @ Maryland, 12:00
NC State @ Wake Forest, 3:30
Florida State @ Boston College, 3:30
Georgia Tech @ Mississippi State, 7:30
Miami vs. Oklahoma, 8:00

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