Following their game against Virginia, the Tar Heels will need to stay focused on their final three opponents: Pittsburgh, Old Dominion, and dook. If they slip on any of these three games, this late in the season, it will do irreversible damage to their ACC regular season title pursuit. UNC would prefer to finish next season out strong so it’s more important than ever to understand their opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. Then, and only then, can the Tar Heels can form a solid plan of attack.
Game #10: Pittsburgh
What to Exploit: Let me just start off by saying something mind-blowing. The University of Pittsburgh Panthers and the UNC Tar Heels playing against one another is an official ACC matchup. Now that your mind is officially in pieces, let’s look at where UNC can do the most damage to Pitt. They had a pretty weak run game, finishing 2012 ranked 94th nationally, with only 133 yards on the ground. The Tar Heels should focus on letting the big guys up front do their jobs and drop back into pass coverage. UNC shouldn’t be too concerned with a Pitt smash-mouth type of football.
What to Watch Out For: They’re a strong defensive team. UNC isn’t just going to light up the scoreboard against the Panthers the way they do against other teams. Pitt finished last season an impressive 23rd in “Points Against” category, giving up a meager 21 points a game. UNC will need to maximize its chances early and often by spreading the ball around. Any early scores for the Tar Heels will shake Pitt’s defensive confidence and swing momentum in Chapel Hill’s favor.
Game #11: Old Dominion
What to Exploit: The Old Dominion Monarchs didn’t play a single top 25 team last season. Squaring off against the Tar Heels, a major national program can often leave a smaller team (with a smaller budget) feeling like they don’t belong. The key is to overwhelm Old Dominion by putting points up early.
What to Watch Out For: They’re a good team. The Monarchs finished first in their respective conference, The CAA, which is the best any team can hope for. They were 11-2 and know how to finish games. UNC will have crush their spirit early. Otherwise, the little engine that could will suddenly start to feel like they actually can. The announcers will get into it even more as the game progresses and it could deal a debilitating blow to UNC’s ranking. Again, score early and press down on this team’s proverbial throat. The Tar Heels can’t let this one get close. That situation becomes a lose-lose at that point. If UNC loses, it’s major. If they barely win, it’s major. Let’s not let that happen.
Game #12: dook
What to Exploit: It’s official. dook football is no longer a joke. However, that being said, they’re far from any sort of juggernaut. In fact, it’s actually better that they’re not a joke anymore. It makes victories that much sweeter for Tar Heel nation. dook was 100th in the nation in rushing yards last season. UNC needs to focus on pass defense and let their big guys up front, and occasionally, the linebacking core to stop dook’s weak run game. This makes the Blue Devils more one dimensional and leads to easier picks.
What to Watch Out For: dook ranked 31st in “Passing Yards Per Game” and 44th in “Points For” in 2012. However, they lost their star quarterback, Sean Renfree, to graduation. Without him back there to make it rain, dook is going to struggle significantly. They’ll try clock management and ratchet up the defense on the Heels in an effort to keep it close. UNC needs to break out of the gates early.