UNC Football: Early Opponent Preview Miami

Dec 26, 2015; El Paso, TX, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) throws a pass against the Washington State Cougars during the first half at Sun Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 26, 2015; El Paso, TX, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Brad Kaaya (15) throws a pass against the Washington State Cougars during the first half at Sun Bowl Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Leading up to the first game of the season, Keeping It Heel will be doing opponent previews in reverse order.

Previous Previews:

NC State / The Citadel / Duke / Georgia Tech / Virginia

This Week: Miami

The U. That’s what fans call the Miami Hurricanes football team. Steeped in tradition and championships, Miami football is in a lot of ways what Carolina basketball is. A way of life.

Last season in Chapel Hill, Miami came in having won two straight. They left with their second blowout loss of the season, 59-21. The year before it was Carolina who was blown out of town on the tail end of two straight wins. Will the trend continue this season in Coral Gables or will the game actually be watchable after halftime?

Head Coach: Mark Richt. Career Record 145-51 (0-0 at Miami). This will be his first season at Miami and his second head coaching stop. Richt was previously the head coach at Georgia where he made a bowl game in each of his 15 seasons with the Bulldogs and finished first in his division six times. The past three Miami coaches have finished first in their division once since joining the ACC (and that year they were ineligible).

Best Graduate: LB Ray Lewis. 13-time Pro Bowler and ten-time All-Pro with two Super Bowl championships and a Super Bowl MVP. Career has 2,055 career, 41.5 Sacks, 31 interceptions, 17 forced fumbles, 20 fumble recoveries, and three touchdowns.

Lewis was twice named NFL defensive player of the year. Lewis owns most records for an insider linebacker and is considered one of the best middle linebackers of all time.

Second Best Graduate: DB Ed Reed. Nine Time Pro Bowler, eight time All-Pro, and a time Super Bowl Champion. Career has 643 tackles, 64 interceptions (7th all-time), 11 forced fumbles, and 13 touchdowns. Reed holds five NFL records as well as five Baltimore Raven franchise records.

This was not an easy decision as Miami has produced a ton of talent. Here is a short list of names that didn’t make the cut: Jim Kelly, Edgerrin James, Frank Gore, Reggie Wayne, Andre Johnson, Michael Irvin, Warren Sapp, Vince Wolfolk, Cortez Kennedy, Jeremy Shockey, Jimmy Graham, Jessie Armstead, Devin Hester, and many, many more.

Last Season: Went 8-5 (5-3 in ACC play). Finished third in the Coastal Division. Season highlights include winning their first three games and being the last remaining Coastal team to be undefeated.

Last season also saw Miami fire their coach mid-season after a meltdown at home against Clemson. In his first game as head coach Larry Scott, who went 4-2 as a head coach, oversaw the lateral six, a play that changed the seasons for both Miami and Duke.

This Season: Eight of their opponents finished last season with a winning record and all eight of them made a bowl game. Miami plays a tougher schedule this year but should be more stable on the whole.

However due to six true road games, including one to Boone, NC, Miami may improve but have a worst record this time around. A 7-5 record is very possible but if a couple of games go right Miami could go 9-3 and win the Coastal for the first time.

Best Player: QB Brad Kaaya. Last season, he threw for 3238 yards with 16 touchdowns against five interceptions. He also rushed for two touchdowns. Kaaya only played in 12 games last season because of a concussion he suffered against Clemson. Overall he threw for over 250 yards in nine games last season. He also threw for over 300 yards in four of those games, including the matchup against the Tar Heels.

Matchup: Saturday, October 15th in Coral Gables. Time TBD

Prediction: This is about the midpoint for both teams. UNC has a tougher start to the season with two power five road games. Miami has the tougher schedule overall with Notre Dame and only one FCS school. Both will be in the middle of their toughest four game stretch. This game should be a lot closer than the last two contests.

Final score: UNC 35, Miami 42. Unfortunately, in close games the edge usually goes to the home team. Plus the talent of Miami is greater than Carolina, due to better recruiting.

The last four seasons Miami has averaged a recruiting class ranked around 17th. Carolina’s on the other hand has been closer to 28th.

The biggest difference thus far has been the coaching of that talent. With Richt as coach, Fedora will have to bring his A+ game if he expects the Heels to win.

If games fall the way I am predicting this will be Carolina’s second loss of the season (I haven’t done their first one yet). It will make winning the Coastal more difficult this time around and would put a damper on their National title aspirations.

However, Miami has some tough games after this one so this game might not determine the Coastal crown after all.