MIAMI (AP) – Miami is in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll for the first time since 2009, keeping the No. 10 Hurricanes in pursuit of an Atlantic Coast Conference division title with games against No. 5 Florida State and No. 19 Virginia Tech still looming. As for North Carolina, the Tar Heels could use a big home win to restore some optimism for fans in a season that is rapidly slipping away.
Miami RB Duke Johnson vs. UNC’s front seven. Johnson is the ACC’s second-leading rusher at better than 114 yards per game. He could be lined up for a big day against a defense that has struggled all season, particularly up front. The Tar Heels are last in the 14-team ACC in rushing defense (197 yards per game) and total defense (436 yards).
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Miami: QB Stephen Morris. Morris is ranked third in the league in passing efficiency and has thrown nine touchdowns. He’s coming off his best performance of the year (324 yards, three touchdowns) in a win against Georgia Tech in the Coastal Division race.
North Carolina: TE Eric Ebron. The Tar Heels could use a big performance out of their athletic tight end, who entered the season aiming for coach Larry Fedora’s goal of 12 touchdown catches. He has two so far, but he can create matchup problems with his size and speed.
FACTS & FIGURES
Two of UNC’s wins against Miami were vacated (2008 and 2009) due to NCAA violations. … UNC has won four of the past six meetings, including 18-14 last year on the road. …. The Tar Heels upset the then-No. 4 Hurricanes on a last-second field goal in Chapel Hill in 2004, which is still the highest-ranked opponent UNC has beaten and the program’s only win against a top five team. … Miami is 15-3 in ESPN Thursday night games. … The Hurricanes have allowed two passing touchdowns all year, tied with Florida for the fewest in the nation. … Miami is plus-6 in turnover margin this season.
Miami by 9.
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