It’s a big ACC game for North Carolina on Saturday when Florida State comes to Kenan Stadium. Wait, is FSU any good? Not according to their 1-4 record. But records don’t seem to matter to the Tar Heels when it comes to the Seminoles. Remember last year? The Tar Heels were ranked #5 in the country and highly favored to beat the unranked Seminoles. Instead, they rolled into Tallahassee and laid an egg, losing 31-28 in a game that wasn’t near as close as the final score. So let’s try again, shall we? Kick-off is set for 3:30 in Chapel Hill.
This time around the Tar Heels (3-2) are once again favored – by 17 points in fact. FSU finally won its first game of the season last week, kicking a last second field goal to beat Syracuse, while the Heels routed rival Duke 38-7. So what’s up with FSU? The Seminoles gave Notre Dame all they wanted in a season-opening overtime loss, then proceeded to look absolutely awful the next three games – all losses – before coming through against the Orange last week.
Second-year head coach Mike Norvell continues his rebuilding project in Tallahassee, where the Seminoles continue to struggle defensively. The secondary has had plenty of issues, allowing 256 yards per game through the air, which ranks 103 in the nation! They’ve only notched three interceptions on the season versus 11 passing touchdowns. And now they face UNC’s high-powered passing attack led by Sam Howell. The Tar Heels rank 15th nationally averaging nearly 310 passing yards per game. And the ‘Noles will have their hands full with sophomore receiver Josh Downs, who’s been torching secondaries all season with his speed and ranks in the top five in the nation in receptions and receiving yards.
The ‘Noles run defense has had its share of problems as well. Syracuse gouged them for 239 rushing yards last week, and now starting defensive tackle Dennis Briggs Jr. is out for the rest of the season with an injury. But FSU does have a standout at defensive end in Jermaine Johnson. He has 5.5 sacks on the season, that’s tied for 3rd most in the country. And UNC has allowed a bunch of sacks this season, including a whopping eight in the Georgia Tech game.
The Seminoles might not be able to stop the run but they are pretty good at running it themselves. Their 5.39 yards per rush ranks #18 nationally and is best in the ACC. They’ve got a pair of outstanding running backs in Jashaun Corbin and Treshaun Ward, who rank first and second in the ACC in yards per carry at 8.13 and 7.7, respectively. They’ve combined for nearly 800 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Red-shirt sophomore quarterback Jordan Travis returned to the lineup last week and is also a threat to run, he had 113 yards on the ground against Syracuse and threw for 131 yards and two touchdowns. Receiver Ontario Wilson is averaging nearly 15 yards a catch, and Andrew Parchment has a pair of scores. Tight end Camren McDonald is a red zone threat, and Corbin is also an excellent receiver, he leads the team with 14 grabs. They’ll face an excellent UNC secondary led by cornerback Tony Grimes.
As previously mentioned, these teams met last season and it did not exactly go as planned. For whatever reason, the Tar Heels just have a hard time beating the Seminoles. They’ve won just three times in 20 tries, and Mack Brown doesn’t own any of those victories – in fact, he’s never beaten FSU in his career. Brown is a Florida State graduate and he’s gone 0-10 against his alma mater, seven of those games as UNC’s coach. On paper it looks like that should change this time around – Brown’s Tar Heels have superior talent and are coming off an impressive win over Duke. And there’s a little something called revenge that also comes into play. “This is a big game for us,” said Howell. “We definitely want to get our revenge back from last year. We definitely want this one bad.” Let’s get it done Sam – go Tar Heels!
by Sharon Thorsland