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Miami v North Carolina

by Sharon Thorsland

It’s time for another edition of the South’s oldest rivalry, featuring Virginia and undefeated North Carolina in their 128th match up. The 10th ranked Tar Heels are 6-0 for the first time since 1997, while the Cavaliers are suffering through a miserable season at 1-5 on the year, their first win coming against William & Mary ahead of last week’s bye. Kick-off is set for 6:30 in Chapel Hill.

While the Cavaliers don’t look so great on paper, a deeper dive shows they have been very competitive this season, with three of their five losses decided by three points or less. And they’ve got some playmakers, most notably receiver Malik Washington. He leads the ACC and is 11th in the nation with 668 receiving yards and five touchdowns, and is averaging over 111 yards per game – that ranks 8th in the nation. Malachi Fields starts alongside Washington, he’s got 31 catches, two of them touchdowns. Former starting quarterback Brennan Armstrong is now at NC State, so the Cavaliers started the season with transfer Tony Muskett directing the offense. He injured his shoulder early so freshman Anthony Colandrea took over and was impressive, throwing for over 900 yards and five touchdowns. He also threw six interceptions, though, so a once again healthy Muskett is back in charge and slated to start this one. Virginia’s offensive line has had trouble protecting whoever is under center, they’ve allowed 22 sacks through six games. They’ve also had trouble opening holes for running back Perris Jones. The Cavaliers can’t get anything going on the ground, they manage just 99.5 yards per game. Jones did run for a career-high 134 against William & Mary though, that was the most by a Wahoos back since 2018.

Virginia’s defense has been hit hard by injuries this season, with sacks leader Kam Butler and safety Lex Long among four players lost to season ending injuries. Two other starters are out for this game. But the Cavaliers are still really good against the pass, led by safety Jonas Sanker. They rank 22nd in the nation allowing just 202.8 passing yards per game. They’re not as good against the run, though, allowing 177 yards a contest. Of course they’re facing Drake Maye, who leads the ACC in total offense and will present plenty of problems now that transfer receiver Tez Walker has found the field and his stride. The Tar Heels are averaging over 501 yards per game, that’s 8th in the nation.

UNC clearly has the superior offense in this one and should be able to easily outscore Virginia. But anything can happen in this rivalry, which first started way back in 1892. The Tar Heels have won two straight after a four year UVA run, and unless something crazy happens they should come out on top again in this one. Go Tar Heels!