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Taking on the Tar Heels: A Look at North Carolina

Syracuse looks to avoid dropping its third straight when it plays North Carolina on Saturday. In welcoming in the weekend bout, here’s a look at the Orange’s opposition. The Tar Heels come in without much luck to this point, but can still pose a trap game threat to the Orange.

Current Record: The Tar Heels are 1-4 overall and 1-2 in the ACC. Their only win came over Pitt on Sept. 22.

Against Ranked Teams: North Carolina is 0-1 against ranked teams this season thanks to a 47-10 loss to 16th-ranked Miami (FL) on Sept. 27. The Tar Heels were scheduled to play No. 18 Central Florida on Sept. 15, but the game was cancelled because of Hurricane Florence. As for now at least, North Carolina has just one more chance to beat a ranked opponent this year. The Tar Heels play current No. 16 NC State in their last game of the season on Nov. 24.

What They Do Well: Run the football. The Tar Heels can be rather effective on the ground, but often play from behind, which forces them to abort the run game for the pass. Consequently, North Carolina is third in the ACC in rush yards per attempt, but also throws the second-most pass attempts per game. The Tar Heels have been their most competitive when they run the ball well, having done so in their lone win over Pitt and in last week’s close finish against Virginia Tech.

What They Don’t Do Well: The Tar Heels have enjoyed periods of success establishing the run, but have struggled to defend it as well. They’re not awful against the pass, but shoddy run defense has them conceding the second-most points per game in the ACC. North Carolina is third-worst in the conference in both rush yards and rushing touchdowns allowed per game.

Key Players: After a promising freshman season, running back Michael Carter broke his wrist just before the start of this year. The sophomore has been back for three games, but finally got a starter’s workload last week against Virginia Tech. Carter took 20 touches for 184 total yards versus the Hokies and will likely assume that kind of share moving forward.

Last year’s team leader in receiving yards, Anthony Ratliff-Williams has returned this season in fine form. The junior again leads the Tar Heels in receiving, and his 17.2 yards per catch tie him with Syracuse’s Jamal Custis for seventh in the ACC.

On the defensive side, the next sack senior Malik Carney tallies this season will already mark a new career high. After being one of 13 Tar Heels suspended earlier this year, Carney has five sacks in three games, notching at least one each time he’s played. His five takedowns have him tied for third in the ACC with SU’s Kendall Coleman and Alton Robinson.

Spread vs. SU: After originally opening at 11, the Tar Heels are currently 9.5-point underdogs to the Orange.

Kickoff between the two ACC squads is at 12:20.

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