It seemed like such a short time ago we were talking about head coach Larry Fedora beginning his era as the head man of the North Carolina football program. Believe it or not, today at 3:30 p.m. EST in the friendly confine of Kenan Stadium the new coach will finish up the non conference part of this year’s schedule. I guess you can say time flies when you are the new man at the helm! In what is Military Appreciation Day Carolina (2-2) will be taking on Idaho (0-4) for the first time ever, a team they are favored by 27.5 points over, and in reality should not have been on UNC’s schedule to begin with.
A couple of years ago Tennessee, who should be running out of the tunnel in Kenan today, decided they were going to lessen the load of their schedule and bought out the home and home with North Carolina. The Athletic Department had to scramble to find a program that would fit into this date and the one they found were the Vandals. From an article on the Star News it states that what UNC received for the buy out it used to get Idaho to travel across the country to play this game, the first ever against a WAC conference program. Which seems fair to me.
Just like East Carolina last week, the Tar Heels once again face a team that has nothing to lose. Idaho has not yet won a game, is a huge underdog and the only thing it can hope for is that Carolina’s players are too focused on next week’s match up with Virginia Tech to be thinking about them. For UNC’s coaching staff keeping the team focused on the game at hand, running the plays they need to and working to improve no matter who is in front of them might be the bigger obstacles for this week.
Here are my keys to the game…
Run, run and run some more. North Carolina has three running backs, two of them, Giovani Bernard and Romar Morris, are very good, while the third, A.J. Blue, is not half bad himself. With that type of talent there is no way that the Tar Heels offense should not be running as much as they can. While quarterback Bryn Renner has done a heck of a job, having completed his last 78 passes without a pick thrown, the team is going to need the running game if they want to do anything in the conference part of the season. With the receiving core as depleted as it can be not using the backs as much as possible is a mistake. Cut them loose and let them get the yards they can, any way possible!
Ebron can be the man! The UNC tight end, who Lauren Brownlow (@lebrownlow did a great post on, needs to get as many touches as possible, as the 6’4″/235 lbs TE leads the team with three TDs and is second with 210 yds. It won’t be easy since it is likely that Idaho will have him doubled up for most of the game, and certainly anytime that the Tar Heels are in the red zone. But Ebron has shown that he can find his way to open space, and if he does, Renner needs to get him the ball.
Shut them down early. Unlike what happened with East Carolina in the first half, the Tar Heels must close out this game before it’s half time, or in other words, they need to get their offense moving before the first two quarters are over. Unsure if Bernard is at full strength it would be great not to have to use him after intermission. The same would be for Renner as well, giving him the fourth quarter off and putting in Marquis Williams would do both of the quarterbacks some good, as the first would get time off and the second would gain experience. As I said at the top of this post, the Vandals come in with nothing to lose, no wins, having given up over 100 points in the last two games, shutting them down early will make this a lot easier on the Heels.
In the end, it’s not really about if North Carolina wins, or at least I hope not. It’s about how well it can execute and how much it has improved from last week. As far as beating what is basically a four touch down spread, well that is another thing altogether, and I doubt they will, mostly because I think you will see a lot less of the starters in the second half and the coaching staff won’t run it up on their opponents. I see the final in this one being 42 to 17, going close to the spread, but not past it.
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