The #21 North Carolina Tar Heels (6-1, 3-0 ACC) take on Pittsburgh (4-3, 1-2 ACC) tonight at 8pm on ACCN.
The Tarheels look to go 4-0 in the ACC, while maintaining their spot at the top of the Coastal and building their lead to 3 games in the division. If the Heels take care of business today (and that’s a big if), they will have a good chance to win the Coastal going into playing Georgia Tech on November 19th, the last team in the division they face.
Not only that, the Heels aim to break a 2-year losing streak against the Panthers. The last 3 games have been won by a total of 17 points, a competitive and fun to watch matchup year after year. UNC is also 0-5 after bye weeks since Mack Brown was hired. Winning this game will help the Heels to prove they are at home in the top 25, as well as to break the “post-bye week curse” that has haunted the Heels under Mack Brown.
Here are my 3 keys to winning this game:
1. STOP THE RUN
I don’t know if I can possibly emphasize and drive this point home enough. The Panthers’ dominant star runningback, Israel Abanikanda, has already totaled 157 rushing attempts for 959 yards and 13 touchdowns, while making opposing defenses look silly. If the Tar Heels can stop or even slow his run to any capacity, Pitt’s offense may begin to falter having to look to their passing game for offensive yardage.
2. Protect Drake at all Costs
Not only has the Panthers’ pass rush been intense this season, Pitt linebacker Tylar Wiltz was quoted as saying “We’re athletic, just like them. We work hard, just like them. We’re going to hit (Drake Maye) just like we hit Malik and, if he doesn’t get up, that’s not our problem. We’re going to do what we do as a defense. Watch.” (via triblive.com). So in light of this, the offensive line needs to give Maye sufficient time, as well as protect him from the hungry Pitt defense.
3. Keep Your Foot on the Gas!!!
No matter what, whether up 7-0 or 49-14, the Heels need to never back down no matter what. Even this year, UNC has had a reputation for getting “too cute” when they are up, and trying trick plays that fail when the opposing team has a chance to get back in the game. I have a feeling that the Panthers will fight all they have to in order to maintain their chance to win the Coastal, and turn their season around.
(I think it will be a close game either way)