CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – After opening their seasons with identical 24-20 decisions against SEC opponents, Miami and North Carolina begin ACC play on Saturday in Mack Brown's first home game in his second go-round with the Tar Heels. North Carolina comes in with confidence after rallying to defeat South Carolina while the Hurricanes showed fight but fell short in a mistake-prone outing against then-No. 8 Florida.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ACC Network. LINE: Miami -4.5
Both teams are counting on fresh new faces at quarterback making a difference. It did for the Tar Heels in their opener as true freshman Sam Howell showed poise and confidence with an impressive second half against South Carolina, leading his team back from a 20-9 halftime deficit with a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to cap drives of 98 and 95 yards. "I've never seen a happier group in the dressing room than they were tonight," said Brown, who had a 69-46-1 mark in his first stint at North Carolina (1988-97) but hasn't coached since leaving Texas at the end of the 2013 season. "The '05 national championship team (at Texas) was never any happier than this group was." The Hurricanes were almost equally pleased with the effort of their redshirt freshman Jarren Williams in his first collegiate start as he made plays and gave Miami a chance to win -- "I thought our guys were confident that they were going to win the game until the final play," head coach Manny Diaz told reporters -- despite immense pressure from a tough Florida defense that came away with 10 sacks.
ABOUT MIAMI (0-1, 0-0 ACC)
Williams made his share of rookie mistakes against Florida (two fumbles) but he did not throw an interception and led Miami to three first-half scoring drives, finishing with 214 yards passing (19-of-30) and one touchdown, a 25-yard connection with star tight end Brevin Jordan that gave the Hurricanes a 13-7 lead just before the half. The offensive line remains a huge trouble spot, as it allowed the Gators to tee off on Miami's young quarterback, but it did have some success opening holes for a ground game that figures to be productive with DeeJay Dallas (94 yards, TD) leading the way. Miami's ball-hawking defense stifled Florida's ground game (50 yards on 28 rushing attempts) and pulled out its famed Turnover Chain four times, but the unit must improve its shoddy tackling in the secondary, as it led to too many big plays for the Gators.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (1-0, 0-0)
Howell, the first true freshman quarterback to ever start the season opener for the Tar Heels, was handcuffed by conservative play calling in the first half against South Carolina but was unleashed after falling behind by 11 points and ended up hitting 15-of-24 passes for 245 yards and the two late touchdowns. Howell was helped tremendously by a ground game that churned out 238 yards, led by Javonte Williams (102 yards) and Michael Carter (77), but the going figures to be much more difficult against a Hurricanes defense that will look to keep the pressure on the young quarterback. In hopes of inspiring a defense that managed just 17 takeaways in 2018, Brown and new defensive backs coach Dre Bly unveiled the Tar Heels' own version of Miami's Turnover Chain -- the Turnover Belt -- and junior safety Myles Wolfolk was the first to don it, coming up with two fourth-quarter interceptions to seal the win over South Carolina.
1. The series is knotted up at 11-11, but Miami has won the last two meetings, including a 47-10 rout last year that included three defensive touchdowns by the Hurricanes.
2. Diaz coached under Brown from 2011-13 at Texas.
3. Brown is in his 31st year as a head coach but has never faced the Hurricanes.
PREDICTION: Miami 26, North Carolina 24