Thursday, October 14, 2010

game preview: North Carolina

Date/Time: October 16; 6:00 PM


History against the Heels: 54-56-4

Last matchup: UVA 16, UNC 3; 10/3/09 in Chapel Hill

Last week: GT 33, UVA 21; UNC 21, Clemson 16

Line: UNC by 6.5

Opposing blogs: Carolina March, Tar Heel Fan

Also see, because I needed somewhere to put this: FTRS's roundtable roundup

Uniform combination: orange jersey, orange pants (dammit)

Injury report:


LT Landon Bradley
WR Tim Smith (season)
TE Joe Torchia (season)



DE Billy Schautz
WR Dontrelle Inman


WR Kris Burd
CB Ras-I Dowling
FB Terence Fells-Danzer
WR Bobby Smith
LB Ausar Walcott

UNC season preview, take it FWIW since it was written before their roster was nuked

With UNC, there's always something. Besides the streak which I'm not even going to talk about, somehow this game always has some kind of back story. Once upon a time it was Ronald Curry; these days it's the personal rain cloud that UNC carries with it in the form of an NCAA doomhammer that's likely to be both heavier and swifter than that laid on USC.

Plus, the game is usually at some point in the season that's relatively pivotal. Just so this year as well. A loss here ends any hopes for a bowl game, unless we can get an upset win over Miami or VT. So a loss here ends any hopes for a bowl game. But a win would be a real springboard of optimism, because next week is Eastern Michigan, which would mean a win streak and a winning record headed into Miami. It might be unfounded optimism, but it'd be two solid weeks of optimism nonetheless.

It also might be a must-win if you ever want to see UVA on TV again this year. The notion that UVA is one of the conference's worst teams and an automatic win for everyone on the schedule but Duke wasn't dispelled by the USC game, and certainly not by the GT and FSU games either. Relegation to ESPN3 for all eternity (or at least all of 2010 as well as the beginning of 2011) is part of what's at stake here.


- Man up. UNC doesn't have any wrinkles. They don't have a crazy offense like GT, or a deceptively mobile quarterback like FSU. The crowd will be favorable. And the UNC playcalling in last year's game made Wisconsin look like Oregon. Sometimes football is as simple as beating the guy across from you; that's the way it goes here. The best way to win a game like this is to win all the matchups. That's what happened last year.

- Establish the run game and control the clock. The notion that winning the time of possession battle also wins you the football game has been exposed as a fraud and everyone knows it but the "experts." It's because they keep seeing this matchup in their minds. Here, it matters; the defense should be able to keep UNC's punt team busy more often than not, if they don't get worn down by constant failure by their own offense. Both teams have excellent pass defense; establish the run game better than thy opponent and verily thou shalt find victory - that is the commandment for the game. It'll also keep Verica from committing inconvenient turnovers.


- Keep tackling like we've been tackling. Shaun Draughn and Johnny White, and especially the newly eligible Ryan Houston, aren't little guys. They'll have no problem getting major yards after contact and turning five yards into fifty if the tackling doesn't improve.

- Let Jheranie Boyd get loose. I don't think UNC's passing game is all that frightening - it's largely an extension of their running game with the two leading receivers being White and tight end Zack Pianalto. Not a bad player, Pianalto, an all-ACC pick for sure, but losing Greg Little had a major effect on the UNC passing game. Boyd is the only downfield threat, but he's a big one. Very fast. Got a 97-yard touchdown to his name this year. This'll be a tight game, and if UVA hopes to win, big plays and lightning strikes can't be part of the UNC arsenal.

- Underestimate this defense. It might be easy to, what with half of it lost in the NCAA tornado. It'd be a big mistake. This is still a competitive defense - in fact, it might well be said UNC hasn't lost a step so far. The games they've lost, they could easily have lost anyway. If ever Bill Lazor or his offensive line or his quarterback start to think this could be an easier ride than they'd expected, it'll be a long afternoon.


There's no reason to expect that this game will be any different than the last three: close, low-scoring affairs involving extended field position battles. Making it even hairier for the fans is that neither team wants to involve their field goal kickers. The good news for Heel fans is that the impending sanctions may have given Butch Davis the ammo he needs to overcome his rep as a recruiter who can't get the best out of his talent. UNC has been playing with a fire in their gut, kindled by the us-against-the-world mentality that's so easy to instill in college kids these days. Hell, Davis has even backed off on the noises he was making about playing Bryn Renner; Renner has attempted one pass all season and T.J. Yates is the no-doubt starter, averting a quarterback controversy.

With UNC playing so solidly and UVA being considered an ACC bottom-feeder, the outside world surely has this one chalked up in the UNC column already. So maybe it's a sign of my homerism that I refuse to make a prediction here. Too close to call. It's early enough in the season that I still think UVA is capable of what it needs to do in order to beat North Carolina. That's hardly where you want to be to be confident of protecting a streak which I'm not even going to talk about, but it's your sign that we still have a season.


NC State @ East Carolina, 12:00
Boston College @ Florida State, 12:00
Maryland @ Clemson, 12:00
Miami @ Duke, 1:00
Wake Forest @ Virginia Tech, 3:30
Georgia Tech vs. Middle Tennessee, 3:30

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