KICKOFF: Saturday, 7:30 ET
SITE: Sun Life Stadium, Miami, Fla.
SERIES: North Carolina leads 8-5 (last meeting, 2009, North Carolina 33-24
RECORDS: North Carolina 4-2, 2-1; Miami 4-2, 2-1
POLLS: Miami (25 AP, 25 USA Today)
KEYS TO THE GAME:
-- North Carolina must avoid turnovers. Miami forced seven turnovers in its win over Duke and has a conference-best 12 interceptions. Carolina's defensive front needs to get pressure on Miami QB Jacory Harris, who has looked less than 100 percent in recent games.
-- Miami wants to keep the running game going. North Carolina has become adept at picking off passes, and Hurricanes QB Jacory Harris has been prone to throwing interceptions in big games recently. The front seven needs to contain Carolina's running game so the secondary can concentrate on defending against the Tar Heels' passing game led by QB T.J. Yates.
SCOUTING THE TEAMS:
North Carolina is only eighth in the ACC overall in total offense (376.8 ypg) but is the nation's sixth-most effective once it gets inside an opponent's 20-yard line. The Tar Heels have scored on 20 of 22 opportunities inside the red zone, with 16 touchdowns. QB T.J. Yates is one of the conference's most effective passers, though he has lost his favorite receiver, TE Zack Pianalto, to an injury for the rest of the season.
The Tar Heels are holding opponents to just 332.0 ypg, but are giving up a generous 154.5 on the ground. They lead the ACC in pass efficiency defense and are second overall in giving up yardage through the air (177.5 per game). DE Quinton Coples is tied for fourth in the ACC in sacks (4.5 in six games) and SS Da'Norris Searcy and LB Kevin Reddick have returned interceptions for touchdowns. They, along with backup FS Matt Merletti, share the team lead with two interceptions each.
Miami is beginning to get its rushing game in gear behind RB Damien Berry and is averaging slightly less than 160 ypg on the ground. QB Jacory Harris snapped a string of four consecutive games with at least one interception by going without a pick in the win over Duke. He is completing only 52.0 percent of his passes, however, with 11 touchdowns. His favorite target is WR Leonard Hankerson (34 catches for 540 yards and seven touchdowns).
The Hurricanes lead the nation in tackles for losses (9.50 per game) and are tied for fourth in sacks (4.33 per game). The Hurricanes also have become adept at creating turnovers, with seven against Duke giving them 18 on the season, 12 on interceptions. They had only nine interceptions last year.
Tar Heels: North Carolina has intercepted 61 passes since the start of the 2007 season -- coach Butch Davis' first year -- and 50 since the start of the 2008 campaign. The Tar Heels have 11 in six games this season and are going against a quarterback in Miami's Jacory Harris who has thrown nine this year. The Heels had five picks against Virginia and Harris threw none against Duke in their last outings. ... QB T.J. Yates, who threw 15 interceptions last year, has been taking good care of the football. He has thrown only one interception in 182 attempts through six games. Only three times last year did he manage to get through a game without throwing a pick. ... Of the 16 players who were placed in limbo while NCAA and school investigations are being conducted into eligibility and/or academic issues, only four remain undetermined: CB Kendric Burney, CB Charles Brown, DE Michael McAdoo and FB Devon Ramsey. The NCAA's six-game penalty against Burney has ended, but he has other school-related issues that must be resolved before he will play.
Hurricanes: Miami is going for its best start in ACC play since 2005 when it takes on North Carolina. The Hurricanes are 2-1 and haven't been 3-1 in the conference since the 2005 team got off to a 5-1 conference start. ... The Hurricanes have won only two of six meetings with North Carolina since the two began competing as ACC colleagues in 2004. The Tar Heels won the initial game in 2004 on a last-second field goal, 41-38. The Hurricanes won the next two but have lost the last three meetings. ... Both Miami and North Carolina are good at protecting their quarterbacks. The Hurricanes have yielded only eight sacks in six games, the Tar Heels 11 in six outings. Miami has a big edge in getting sacks with 20 to North Carolina's eight.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
-QB T.J. Yates -- Pushed for his job in the spring, Yates has had a fabulous senior season to date with 11 touchdown passes against only one interception. He is completing 66.5 percent of his attempts, a conference best, and is second in pass efficiency in the ACC.
-WR Jheranie Boyd -- The sophomore has had some big plays for the Tar Heels this season, and the Heels may need one or two more from him this game. Boyd scored on a 97-yard reception, longest play from scrimmage in school history, and also had a 75-yard play against LSU. He also has had receptions covering 70 yards against North Carolina State and 59 against East Carolina in his career.
-DT Quinton Coples -- Carolina is without super DE Robert Quinn (suspended for the season) but is getting a good pass rush from Coples. He has 4.5 sacks among his team-best 9.0 tackles for loss to lead the Heels in that category.
-TB Damien Berry -- Only five Hurricanes have rushed for 100 yards or more in three consecutive games, and Berry is one of them. The others read like a list of NFL greats: Willis McGahee, Edgerrin James, Clinton Portis and Frank Gore. Berry is going for his fourth in a row, which would tie him with James and Portis.
-FS Vaughn Telemaque -- The sophomore went the first 19 games of his career without an interception; now he has three in his last two games. With North Carolina bringing an aerial assault to Miami, Telemaque looks to play a key role.
-WR Leonard Hankerson -- The senior became Miami's go-to guy last year, and he has continued that role in 2010. He is third in the ACC with an average of 5.7 receptions a game and second in per-game average in receiving yards (90.0). His seven touchdown receptions lead the ACC and put him well on pace to challenge Michael Irvin's single-season school record of 11.
TE Zack Pianalto (leg, out), LB Quan Sturdivant (hamstring, questionable).