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North Carolina football vs. Mercer: Time, TV schedule, game preview, score

Tar Heels battle Bears

The North Carolina Tar Heels prepare to take the field for a game against the Louisville Cardinals during at Kenan Stadium on September 9, 2017 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina started the season with two wins before nearly knocking off No. 3 Clemson in late September, but the Tar Heels need to win their final two contests to clinch a bowl bid and that quest begins against visiting Mercer on Saturday afternoon. North Carolina has lost six games by a total of 26 points, including a 38-31 setback versus Virginia on Nov. 2 and a 34-27 overtime defeat at Pittsburgh last week.

TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, RSN, ACC Network Plus. LINE: No line

“That’s our second overtime loss,” Tar Heels coach Mack Brown told reporters after last week’s heartbreaker. “I’m proud that the kids fight so hard. We, as coaches, have got to figure out how to get them over the hump.” Freshman quarterback Sam Howell continues to put up big numbers for North Carolina and needs one touchdown pass to tie Mitchell Trubisky (30, in 2016) for the single-season school record while sitting 206 yards shy of 3,000 with just six interceptions. The Tar Heels, who finished 2-9 last season to miss a bowl for the second straight year, must take care of FCS Mercer before making the short trip to Raleigh and meeting rival North Carolina State on Nov. 30. The Bears, who lost 66-14 to Memphis last season, are near the bottom of the Southern Conference standings and come in off consecutive losses to Wofford (41-7) and East Tennessee State (38-33).

ABOUT MERCER (4-7)

Junior quarterback Kaelan Riley threw for 224 yards with a touchdown strike and two interceptions against East Tennessee State, but the Bears allowed 526 yards of offense - 410 of them on the ground. Junior running back Tyray Devezin rushed for 168 yards - his third straight with at least 100 to pull within 51 of 1,000 - and four touchdowns last week to push his season total to 11 on the ground while three Bears have registered 400 receiving yards-plus. Sophomore David Durden leads that group with 38 catches for 578 yards and four TDs after hauling in nine for 115 against East Tennessee State.

ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (4-6)

Howell boasts multiple touchdown passes in all 10 games and has thrown for at least 300 yards five times after completing 27-of-43 attempts against Pittsburgh for 322 yards along with three scores. Howell has two top targets in junior Dazz Newsome (57 catches, 817 yards, seven TDs), who totaled a career-high 11 receptions last week, and sophomore Dyami Brown (37, 714, nine) while junior Beau Corrales (32, 434, six) is also a dangerous receiver. Sophomore Javonte Williams, who leads the team with 763 rushing yards, has been bothered by an upper-body injury but is listed as probable.

EXTRA POINTS

1. North Carolina junior LB Chazz Surratt leads the team with 95 tackles and also has five sacks to go along with an interception.

2. Howell leads the ACC in touchdown strikes and passing yards per game (279.4), but is ninth in completion percentage (58.8).

3. Mercer senior DB Eric Jackson had 10 tackles in the last game and boasts 282 in his career.

PREDICTION: North Carolina 51, Mercer 7