No. 8 Miami aims to stay unbeaten in visit to North Carolina
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — Eighth-ranked Miami is unbeaten and a big favorite heading into Saturday’s game at injury-depleted North Carolina.
Still, coach Mark Richt doesn’t expect an easy game.
“We’re just finding way to win at the end of games,” Richt said. “We’re not foolish enough to think that we’ve arrived yet. I don’t think they believe that. They know we have to earn it.”
The Hurricanes (6-0, 4-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) haven’t had an easy win in October, even though they sit as the lone unbeaten in the league’s typically unpredictable Coastal Division. There was a win at Florida State on a touchdown with 6 seconds left, followed a week later by a win against Georgia Tech on a field goal with 4 seconds left and last weekend’s 27-19 win against Syracuse.
The visit to North Carolina (1-7, 0-5) comes before two pivotal home games — first against No. 13 Virginia Tech followed by one against No. 9 Notre Dame — that will factor into whether Miami reaches its first ACC championship game and contends for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Things are very different for the Tar Heels, who seem like they’re just trying to get through each week.
UNC is off to its worst start in league play since going 0-6 in 2006, done in by inexperience compounded by a dizzying number of injuries. Most glaringly, the traditionally high-scoring offense has a combined 38 points in the past four games and has twice needed fourth-quarter touchdowns to avoid the first shutout of the Larry Fedora era.
UNC is coming off a 59-7 loss at Virginia Tech, the most lopsided loss of Fedora’s six-year tenure, two seasons after winning 11 games and reaching the ACC title game.
“I wouldn’t know how to answer that other than that I can tell the fans that I wish we were playing better,” Fedora said when asked what he would say to fans questioning the direction of the program.
“And I wish we were winning football games. And nobody wants it more than these players and these coaches, I assure you. But I can’t really worry about people that are fickle. And if they really truly understand the game of football and they really, truly love this program, they’ll understand what’s going on.”
Here are some other things to know about Saturday’s Miami-North Carolina game:
THIN ROSTER: The Tar Heels’ injury report listed 21 players as out for this game, 17 of those being out for the season. The list of those out specifically for this game includes freshman tailback Michael Carter — who had big games against California and Virginia — and safety Donnie Miles.
STREAKING: Miami has won 11 straight going back to last season, the second-best active streak in the country behind only South Florida’s 12. The Hurricanes have also won their last eight ACC games, the best current league streak ahead of North Carolina State (five), Boston College (two) and Virginia Tech (two).
HISTORY LESSON: Miami is 124-8-1 as a Top 10 team when facing an unranked opponent. But one of those eight losses came at North Carolina in 2004 — and there are similarities between then and now. Miami also entered that game 6-0, the Tar Heels had a losing record (3-4 then), UNC was coming off a blowout loss (46-16 to Utah in 2004), and the 2004 matchup also was on Halloween weekend.
CARDIAC ’CANES: Miami’s last three wins by a combined 13 points marks its closest margin for back-to-back-to-back wins in the same season since 1992. That year, the Hurricanes beat Arizona (8-7), Florida State (17-16) and Penn State (17-14) by a combined five points. The Hurricanes went on to play for the national title that season, losing to Alabama in the Sugar Bowl.
LINE PLAY: The Tar Heels have to get something more from an underachieving offensive line, which has struggled despite having several veterans. “They’ve got to play better,” Fedora said. “They know it. Nobody knows it better than them.”
AP Sports Writer Tim Reynolds in Coral Gables, Florida, contributed to this report.
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