The Daily Nole

FSU Football: A First Look at North Carolina

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Florida State will play an FBS opponent for the first time at Doak Campbell Stadium on Saturday as North Carolina comes in looking to win a fourth straight contest after dropping the opener against Georgia.

Much like the case for Florida State, the Tar Heels have been able to score in bunches, but getting stops hasn’t been easy. Larry Fedora’s team comes in ranked 23rd in the Amway Coaches Poll and looks to win the Coastal division for a second straight year. It’ll be the first meeting between the teams since North Carolina upset the Seminoles in Tallahassee in 2010 by a 37-35 score.

On North Carolina

Record: 3-1 (1-0 ACC)
Offensive Ranks: 24th in yards per game (471), 13th in passing yards per game (334), 100th in rushing yards per game (136.8), 27th in points per game (41.3)
Defensive Ranks: 90th in yards per game allowed (425), 30th in passing yards per game allowed (184.5), 118th in rushing yards per game allowed (240.3), 84th in scoring defense (30)
Last Game: Rallied to beat Pittsburgh, 37-36.

On Offense

Offensively, it’s hard to find a glaring weakness for North Carolina as the Tar Heels are solid at just about every position group. After a shaky outing against Georgia to open the year, quarterback Mitch Trubisky has really settled in over the last three weeks, completing better than 80 percent of his passes for 1,150 yards and 10 touchdowns without an interception.

Trubisky has talent all around him at the skill positions. Elijah Hood is one of the ACC’s best backs and runs with power while T.J. Logan is a home run threat as a change-of-pace back. Ryan Switzer, who has been best known for his ability in the return game, leads a deep receiving corps and is coming off a 16-catch, 208-yard outing against Pittsburgh. Senior Mack Hollins led the nation in yards per catch last season and may do it again, averaging nearly 23 per reception this year with three touchdowns on just eight grabs.

With three seniors and two juniors, North Carolina is also very good up front. Jon Heck, Caleb Peterson and Lucas Crowley are All-ACC caliber performers. Through four games, the Tar Heels have given up seven sacks.

On Defense

While the North Carolina offense has been tough to stop this season, the Tar Heel defense has had a hard time getting stops, particularly on the ground. To this point, Illinois is the only team the Tar Heels have limited to fewer than 200 yards rushing.

Defensive tackle Nazair Jones is the best UNC has up front. Jones is tied for the team-lead with three tackles for loss as part of a very young contingent. Sophomore linebacker Andre Smith leads the team with 37 total tackles.

The strength of the North Carolina defense is in the secondary. Des Lawrence and M.J. Stewart are extremely talented at cornerback while safety Donnie Miles does just about everything for coordinator Gene Chizik’s defense. As a team, North Carolina has yet to record an interception, but is holding opponents to fewer than seven yards per pass attempt at less than a 61 percent completion clip.

On Special Teams

When it comes to special teams, Larry Fedora’s bunch is as good as anyone in the ACC and perhaps the country. Switzer and Logan are incredibly dangerous in the return game and kicker Nick Weiler is usually pretty reliable with already two makes from more than 40 yards.

Punter Tom Sheldon is averaging better than 42 yards per boot with five of his 13 punts being downed inside the 20-yard-line. In punt coverage, North Carolina is allowing less than a half-yard per return. The Tar Heels rank second in the ACC in net punting behind only N.C. State.


Like Ole Miss, Louisville and South Florida, North Carolina is a very talented football team and one that doesn’t mind having to win shootouts. Though not a great athlete himself, Mitch Trubisky is quickly emerging as one of the ACC’s best quarterbacks and is surrounded by great athletes.

The glaring weakness for North Carolina is stopping the run and FSU is coming off one of the besting rushing efforts in school-history. Conversely, the Tar Heels can sling it around and defending the pass has been a sore spot for the Seminoles this season. After winning 10 games and the ACC Coastal a season ago, North Carolina will come to Doak Campbell Stadium expecting to collect a signature win under Fedora.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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