UNC Football vs. Florida A&M: Preview, info, prediction and more

Opening kickoff is just hours away, as the Keeping It Heel team is here to preview the UNC football program’s Week 0 contest against Florida A&M. 

It’s finally time for some UNC football!

We all survived the potential scare of the game being canceled, and can now get ready to watch some Tar Heels football on Saturday night.

Florida A&M will be short-staffed on Saturday night, as they are expected to be missing 20 players due to NCAA compliance issues (whether academic or transfer eligibility problems).

At this point, we do know that the Rattlers will be without star linebacker Isaiah Land, who is the reigning FCS defensive player of the year, which is a huge blow to the HBCU school’s defense. The program will also have eight eligible offensive linemen, which could ultimately be an issue as this game rolls along.

Here’s our breakdown of tonight’s battle between the Rattlers and Tar Heels.

Key to Victory for North Carolina

Take advantage of the situation while not taking the Rattlers lightly.

Yes, Mack Brown and company would have liked to face a full-staffed Florida A&M squad. However, that is something that is out of their control, as they’ll at least still be able to play the game as scheduled.

This will still be a good test for the Tar Heels, as they have plenty of position battles going on that still have room to be altered. Expect a various number of players to have an opportunity to make an impact in this one.

If the Tar Heels can get going offensively early, this could potentially have a preseason game type of feel to it. Knowing the situation at hand, North Carolina could look to get a big lead early, get the starters out eventually to keep them healthy, while giving some other guys a chance to contribute.

Regardless of who’s on the field, North Carolina still can’t take this game lightly. Coming out of the gate with a strong effort could help set the tone throughout the contest.

Something to Watch For

Yes, all eyes are on the quarterback spot, as Maye makes his first collegiate start. However, my focus is on the running back position and a potential matchup between Josh Downs and Rattlers cornerback Kendall Bohler.

In regards to the running backs, I’m very interested in seeing what the freshmen can do. Expect George Pettaway and Omarion Hampton to contribute at some point, as the highly-touted freshman will try to make their cases for expanded roles within the offense.

There’s no doubt that offensive coordinator Phil Longo will focus on getting the ball in Downs’ hands. However, he’ll have a tough matchup, as he’ll most likely line up against Bohler, a redshirt sophomore.

Can Bohler and the Rattlers’ defense keep Downs in check, or will the junior wide receiver get the upper hand?

Side note: both team’s bands will perform, with the Marching 100 making the trip to Chapel Hill. Fans should be excited to see these performances!

It’s Gunna Be Maye

The post-Sam Howell era begins, as redshirt freshman Drake Maye will get the first crack at earning the team’s starting quarterback job.

Maye has a very popular name in Chapel Hill but will look to earn his own reputation on campus. Based on how Mack Brown has handled the situation, the competition between Maye and Jacolby Criswell was a very close one.

Expect to see both quarterbacks at some point, but it’s rather simple: whoever produces will continue to stay on the field.

What You Need to Know

WHAT? North Carolina Tar Heels (0-0, 0-0 in ACC) vs. Florida A&M (0-0, 0-0 MEAC)
WHEN? Saturday, August 27, 2022 at 8:15 PM EST
WHERE? Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
TV? ACC Network
RADIO? Tar Heels Sports Network
WEATHER? Partly cloudy, high of 72 degrees with a chance of thunderstorms
LINE? UNC -43.5
LAST MEETING? First ever meeting
ALL-TIME SERIES?  First ever meeting