North Carolina might just be for real. The Tar Heels rolled up 656 yards of offense en route to a win against a very good Virginia Tech team last week to improve to 3-0 on the season. The Heels are ranked #5 in the latest AP poll, their highest ranking since 1997! So it's appropriate that UNC plays Florida State this Saturday in Tallahassee (7:30pm on WBT).
Back in 1997 when the Tar Heels were also ranked #5, they took on the then 3rd ranked Seminoles in Chapel Hill. That didn't turn out so great, the Heels lost that game 20-3. But they're favored in this one. The Seminoles are far from the dominant program they once were, losing their third straight last week at Notre Dame to fall to 1-3 on the season and winless in the ACC.
It's another rebuild in Tallahassee, where FSU has another new coach in Mike Norvell. The former Memphis coach has his work cut out for him trying to turn things around. He doesn't have a whole lot to work with, although there is some talent, especially on defense.
Defensive tackle Marvin Wilson is a force, and the secondary is led by All-ACC cornerback Asante Samuel, he has three interceptions. But the Seminoles are still giving up 454 yards and 34 points per game, and they've managed just three sacks all season. They struggle mightily against the run – last week Notre Dame picked up 353 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Things won't be any easier this week. The Tar Heels feature the dynamic duo of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, who are averaging a combined 232 rushing yards per game and picked up 399 yards against the Hokies. Good luck stopping them!
FSU's offense is a work in progress, looking much improved against the Irish last week. They've flip flopped between junior quarterback James Blackman and sophomore Jordan Travis. They've both got two touchdowns and two interceptions on the season, but Travis is way more mobile, with 235 rushing yards. In fact, he leads the team in rushing! But Travis hurt his hand so Blackman finished the Notre Dame game.
The Seminoles have a veteran receiving corps led by 6'4 Tamorrion Terry. But they lost star running back Cam Akers to the NFL and have had a hard time replacing him. Texas A&M transfer Jashaun Corbin basically splits reps with La'Damian Webb and freshman Lawrance Toafili, who is averaging a whopping 7.1 yards per carry!
The bad news is the offensive line is just not very good, which is the main reason the Seminoles have been mired in mediocrity recently. They'll face a UNC defense that ranks 4th in the league in passing, rushing, and total defense. Throw in the fact that the Seminoles are one of the most undisciplined teams in football, with plenty of untimely penalties, and you see why UNC has a great chance to win this game.
The last time these teams met was way back in 2016 and it was a good one. UNC upset the 12th ranked 'Noles 37-35 with a last second field goal. That's one of just three games the Tar Heels have won in this rivalry, none under UNC coach Mack Brown.
Bet you didn't know that Brown is a Florida State graduate and he's gone 0-9 against his alma mater, six of those games as UNC's coach. That should change this Saturday – Brown's Tar Heels have superior talent and are playing some pretty good football right now. I say they get it done in Tallahassee and move to 4-0 on the season. Go Tar Heels!