Miami-North Carolina Preview
Miami owns its first top 10 ranking in four years. With an apparent mismatch against struggling North Carolina, the Hurricanes look to have a good chance to stay there for at least one more week.
Miami can improve to 6-0 for the first time since 2004 with a road win over the Tar Heels on Thursday night.
Though the Hurricanes (5-0, 1-0 ACC) were idle last week, they vaulted to No. 10 in the poll thanks to losses by three teams ranked ahead of them. It's the first time the school has been ranked in the top 10 since Oct. 18, 2009.
Miami's coach is unimpressed.
"At the end of the season we'll count them up and see where we're at," Al Golden said. "We're 0-0 going into this game. All that matters right now is going to Chapel Hill, being a mature team, having poise, playing with pose, communicating, executing. The rest of it doesn't really matter."
Golden's comments do seem to carry some weight given the scare Miami encountered its last time out. The Hurricanes had to overcome a 17-7 first-quarter deficit and four turnovers for a 45-30 victory over Georgia Tech on Oct. 5.
It was the first time Miami trailed by more than one score since a 33-20 loss to Florida State on Oct. 20.
"You really don't have any leadership until you have a bead of sweat and the crap hits the fan," Golden said. "And that's what happened. I think we learned a lot about our team. We had great leadership through that, we had great poise, but it did look bleak."
Duke Johnson, fourth in the FBS with 190.8 all-purpose yards per game, ran for 184 yards on 22 carries, caught a pass for 27 yards and totaled 114 yards on four kickoff returns.
Stephen Morris was 17 of 22 for 324 yards and three touchdowns, though he was picked off twice. He improved his passer rating to 169.7, ninth best in the country.
"I'm proud to say that we're on the right track," Morris said. "But we've still got a lot of things to do."
Morris struggled in an 18-14 home loss to the Tar Heels last Oct. 13, going 12 of 26 for 155 yards with two picks before exiting late due to an ankle injury.
This North Carolina defense, however, is surrendering the most yards in the ACC at 436.0 per game and appears ill-equipped to prevent Miami from scoring at least 40 points for a fourth straight game for the first time since 1987.
The Tar Heels (1-4, 0-2) allowed three passing scores in the first half of a 27-17 loss at Virginia Tech on Oct. 5. Though on the brink of suffering their fourth consecutive loss in the same regular season for the first time since 2007, coach Larry Fedora thinks the season is salvageable.
"There is no doubt in my mind that it is and it starts today, or yesterday or whenever you want it to start, it starts now. It's just about us getting better," he said.
North Carolina has dropped six straight to top 10 teams since a 31-28 win over then-No. 4 Miami on Oct. 30, 2004.
Bryn Renner is expected to be back at quarterback after having his consecutive starts streak snapped at 29 due to an ankle injury. He'll be facing a Miami team that has 18 sacks - by 13 players - to tie for 12th-most nationally.
Tight end Jack Tabb, who started at linebacker while playing both ways versus Virginia Tech, will be suspended for the first half after being ejected for throwing a punch during a kickoff return.
Miami, which was winless in four trips to Chapel Hill prior to a 30-24 victory in 2011, can even the all-time series at eight wins.