Game Day: UNC vs. South Florida

TAMPA, Fla. – North Carolina travels to the Sunshine State for a noon showdown with No. 23 South Florida at Raymond James Stadium Saturday (ESPN).

This contest marks only the second meeting between these two programs, as the Bulls (2-0, 0-0 Big East) defeated the Tar Heels 37-20 last season at Kenan Stadium.

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"Playing an ACC team, here at Raymond James, I don't think we've ever done that," South Florida head coach Jim Leavitt said. "We have to work extremely hard to get ready for this game…I'm looking forward to seeing how we stack up against a good ACC team."

Red-shirt freshman T.J. Yates continues to be the main storyline for North Carolina (1-2, 0-1 ACC), as the Tar Heels are averaging 383 total yards and 29.3 points through their first three games.

"North Carolina is a very good football team," Leavitt said. "I'm very impressed with the quarterback, he's got very good feet, he's got range, he makes plays, quick release, and very confident."

But North Carolina's stout wide receiver corps (37 receptions, 674 yards and eight touchdowns) will face its toughest test to date, as South Florida cornerbacks Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins form one of the nation's top tandems in the secondary.

"We talked to some of the coaches at Auburn, and [they] told us that they felt the corners at South Florida were maybe two of the best corners that they had ever played against in the last couple of years," UNC head coach Butch Davis said. "They are fast, so this will be a great matchup."

The Bulls also present a tough challenge for the North Carolina defense, as sophomore Matt Grothe is a dual-threat quarterback with 475 total yards and four touchdowns in two games this season.

"[Grothe's] watching the backside of your defense for the opportunity to pull it out and run," Davis said. "He tries to account for somewhere between 40 and 60 yards of their rush offense, just reading how fast your defense chases the initial ball carrier."

Senior defensive end Hilee Taylor (15 tackles, 3.5 sacks) and senior linebacker Durell Mapp (39 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss) must continue their strong play if the Tar Heel defense (356.7 yards allowed per game) has any hope to shut down a balanced Bulls' offensive attack.

Leavitt's program is ranked in the top-25 for the first time in its 10-year history following a 26-23 upset at Auburn two weeks ago, and now the Bulls are determined to validate that ranking with another victory over a BCS school outside of the Big East.

"We can't worry about the past game, we have to worry about the present," Grothe said. "If we come out and play hard and keep mistakes to a minimum, we're good enough to beat anybody."

Saturday's ball game takes place at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' NFL stadium, with a Super Bowl on its resume and with another one being held here in 2009. Davis doesn't believe this weekend's change of venue presents any major obstacles, however.

"Raymond James Stadium is kind of a neat stadium – it has the pirate ship in the end zone and those kinds of things," Davis said. "It's kind of like in the movie ‘Hoosiers,' the field's still 100 yards long just like it was 10 feet high on the goal… I think it will be nice to have a nice locker room on the road to go where everybody actually has a locker and there's more than two showerheads."

A UNC victory would give the Tar Heels their first win outside of North Carolina since a 38-35 triumph at Arizona State in 2002, and their first victory in the state of Florida since a 42-3 win over Virginia Tech in the Jan. 1, 1998 Gator Bowl.


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