It may not feature a ranked team, but UNC at Miami on Saturday offers huge ACC implications.
Don’t look now, but UNC at Miami may serve as a turning point for both teams the rest of the way.
While divisions will dissolve beginning next year, somebody has to win the lousy ACC Coastal, right? Although it is not as bad as it has been in some years, all of the best teams in the ACC play over in the Atlantic. With Clemson, NC State, Wake Forest and shockingly Syracuse looking strong, somebody has to play the role of cannon fodder in Charlotte. It might as well be UNC or Miami…
Although Miami is a ways away from being anything close to a contender under Mario Cristobal, here is what is at stake for his team, as well as Mack Brown’s 4-1 North Carolina Tar Heels.
Take the over: UNC at Miami is about to be a shootout with big ACC implications
No matter what the betting totals indicate in this one, take the over and thank me later. Your 401k is getting destroyed by the day in this inflation-riddled economy of ours, so why not double it by taking the over? Even if there is money to be had in this one at Miami Gardens, this game could potentially serve as a turning point for both teams, UNC this season and Miami heading into next.
This is the first game of ACC play for the Canes, but the second for the Heels. Miami went 2-2 in non-conference play with wins over Bethune-Cookman and Southern Miss, but losses at Texas A&M and home vs. Middle Tennessee… North Carolina suffered its first loss of the season two weeks ago vs. Notre Dame, but bounced back with its first ACC win of the year over Virginia Tech.
For UNC, a win in South Florida might make the Heels the favorite to come out of the Coastal. Pitt won it last year, but Pitt is also … Pitt. Georgia Tech fired its head coach. Virginia and Virginia Tech have first-timers. While Duke is trending up under Mike Elko, the Blue Devils don’t have the on-field talent of teams like UNC or Miami. Simply put, the winner on Saturday is in the driver’s seat.
Getting to Charlotte would be huge for Brown’s program. The Tar Heels had a miserable 2021 season after getting to the Cotton Bowl during the COVID-shortened 2020 campaign. Not to say they will beat Clemson or whoever comes out of the Atlantic, but UNC looks to be in good shape heading into the next era of ACC football once the league adopts the 3-5-5 model going forward.
Although Miami could still win the Coastal, it is more important for the Canes to look competent in ACC play this season. No Florida Power Five team is firing on all cylinders right now. Florida State seems to be leading the race between them, Florida, Miami and UCF, who goes to the Big 12 next year. Cristobal can recruit, but he will need more good players to win prolifically at his alma mater.
Overall, there is more than early-season control of the ACC Coastal at play in this ballgame. It is a battle of perception, with the winner posturing itself as not only the best the weak Coastal has to offer, but perhaps a seat at the big kid’s table once conference scheduling gets reconfigured next year. The loser may slip back into the mediocre middle of the conference that has defined the ACC.
Whoever hangs a 50 burger on the other the fastest probably ends up winning this game, maybe.