The obvious storyline this weekend is how North Carolina intends to replace starting quarterback T.J. Yates (623 yards on 40-of-66 passing, six touchdowns and one interception) after the red-shirt sophomore broke his left ankle in the third quarter of last Saturday's loss to Virginia Tech. Just how devastating a blow that injury is to UNC's bowl hopes will be determined against Miami, with red-shirt junior Cam Sexton (840 yards on 57-of-136 passing, 4 TDs, 8 INTs in '06) and red-shirt freshman Mike Paulus (3-of-9, 23 yards, 2 INT) battling for playing time under center.
Davis indicated on Wednesday afternoon that he expects both quarterbacks to see action in the first half against Miami.
"We're probably going to play both of them during the course of the game, so that you don't find yourself in a situation where you give one of the young men 100 percent of the reps with the first team going all week long, and then, God forbid if something happens to him, then the other one is completely unprepared to go into the ball game," Davis said.
Regardless of who plays, it will be imperative for the Tar Heel signal caller to capitalize on the abilities of his standout wide receiver trio in Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster, who have combined for 782 passing/rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
Miami head coach Randy Shannon has focused his team's efforts this week on improving their own play instead of worrying about which North Carolina quarterback may take the field.
"We're not sure who is going to be the quarterback, but no matter who the quarterback is, knowing Coach Davis, he will have a quarterback ready to play," Shannon said. "He's going to coach the same way. It's not going to affect him and what they are doing offensively."
There is also the revenge factor for the Hurricanes. Miami strutted into Kenan Stadium last October with a 4-1 record and ACC Championship aspirations. But the Tar Heels struck early and often, building a 27-0 lead in the first half before holding on for a 33-27 victory.
"We went into it thinking we could beat North Carolina without coming out to play like we could play," Shannon said.
The Hurricanes dropped five of their next six games, raising serious questions about Shannon's ability as a head coach entering the offseason. But Shannon brought in new defensive coordinator Bill Young and injected young blood into the program, playing 21 true freshmen in the season-opening victory over Charleston Southern.
Red-shirt freshman quarterback Robert Marve will make his third collegiate start this weekend after completing 16 of his 22 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday's win over Texas A&M. The Hurricanes are even more potent on the other side of the ball, ranking 26th nationally in overall defense and 17th in rushing defense. Miami is yielding just 18.7 points and 277.7 yards per contest.
If the Tar Heels intend to keep their ACC Championship hopes afloat, they can ill afford to fall into an 0-2 hole in the competitive Coastal Division. But maybe even more importantly for North Carolina fans, this weekend will give them a snapshot as to what to expect for the next six weeks until Yates is able to return.
Kick-off is set for noon and will be aired nationally on ESPN2.