Maryland (4-4 (1-3 ACC)) @ North Carolina (2-6 (1-3 ACC))
The Terps travel to Chapel Hill this Saturday to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Tar Heels are in their first season under new head coach Butch Davis. Butch Davis will make this program more respectable, which has already started happening, but they are not where they want to be yet. Meanwhile, in a season where much more was expected out of a Maryland team which competed for the division crown last year, a season of disappointment has settled in. The injuries keep on mounting for the Terps and a bowl game in now a big question mark. A bowl game is out of the question for the Tar Heels, but the role of spoiler is set up nicely for them. Will the Terps bounce back from injuries and two disappointing losses? Will the Tar Heels take another step into the direction of respectable? Who will get their 2nd ACC win? On to the game…..
What you need to know about North Carolina:
Despite the 2-6 record, Tar Heel fans have very little to complain about this season. They won their season opening against JMU, but lost the following weekend to ECU 31-34. The rest of the season up until now were all expected losses. UNC managed to pull an upset of Miami at home though to get their 2nd victory. Also, they lost to UVA by only 2, Virgina Tech by 7, and then #7 South Carolina by 6. These are very impressive losses and should be a warning to the rest of the league that North Carolina is heading in the right direction, and if you take them lightly, they will make you pay for it.
If you have read my blog at all, you would know that my favorite non-terrapin in the ACC is UNC QB T.J. Yates. The Sophomore signal-caller, has struggled the past few weeks though, compiling 11 TD’s and 12 INT’s during the season, with 1907 yards passing. The guy has no help from the running game (they average 102 yards on the ground), and no big name receivers (Hakeem Nicks is getting it done though with 614 reception yards), yet they still put up 21 points a game. The Tar Heel offense lives and dies with T.J. Yates. He might not be great this year, but if I were a Tar Heels fan, I would be very excited to see what he can do the next two seasons as the starting quarterback. With a new, prestigious, head coach, the talent around him is only going to get better, and he will improve too. That talent won’t be around for this Saturday’s game though. If UNC is to put points up on Maryland, it will be through the air. How Terps Defensive Coordinator Cosh plays his defense in this game when he knows the pass is coming will factor a lot into how much UNC is able to score.
The reason that the Tar Heels have been able to stay in games this season is their impressive defense. They give up 141 yards rushing and 197 yards passing for a total yardage of 338. Not bad numbers at all. The defense has forced 8 interceptions on the season, with Redshirt Freshman Safety Deunta Williams leading with 3 of his own. Senior DE Hilee Taylor leads the team with 8 sacks on the season. The Tar Heels defense is solid, but very beatable if you play smart, stay away from Williams, and contain Taylor.
The Terps need to figure out how to play defense if they want to win this game. I think Chris Turner will start again at quarterback, but it doesn’t really matter. The offense won’t be the problem on Saturday. The defense needs to step up and make plays. With the injuries on the offensive line, the offense is no longer accountable for making the big plays for this team to win. Besides an injury on the defensive line, the starters for this Maryland Defense are healthy. Freidgen called out Chris Cosh last week saying the missed assignments and tackles in the Clemson game are not entirely on the players. Cosh needs to step up his game as well as the players. UNC has a very containable offense. They pass. When their pass doesn’t work, they are going to continue passing. Hopefully the Terps have game-planned for this and will be prepared for T.J. Yates, because if they contain him, it will probably be a great day for the Terps.
This is a must win game for the Terps. If they lose tomorrow, they will most likely need to win their last 3 games to get in a bowl game. They probably need 3 wins to get in a bowl game regardless, unless BC loses in the ACC championship after an undefeated season. What better place to get your 5th win of the season than at a 2-6 opponent that is just starting to turn around its program. There is little excuse for anything but a Terps victory this Saturday. Despite all of the injuries, the Terps still have better players than the Tar Heels. Unlike last week against Clemson, the Terps backups will be able to keep up with the Tar Heel starters. I think the Terps realize its time to put up, or shut up, and they will get the job done this Saturday, thus starting their fight to earn a bowl bid. Prediction: Maryland 28 North Carolina 18