We’re very fortunate here at ACAA to have a tight-knit group of respectable writers. Two of our UNC writers, Trent Brown and Kiley Waldrop, join me today to discuss this week’s Florida State-North Carolina matchup. Below, we discuss which players fans should look out for, how the UNC defense will fare against Dalvin Cook, and give some predictions for Saturday’s ACC clash.
Josh: Many see North Carolina as the Coastal Division favorite this season after last year’s 11-3 team that almost knocked off Clemson in the ACC Championship. What were your predictions entering this season?
Trent: Entering this season, I expected us to have a powerful offense but to see some struggles with our defense. Because we are still building off of our past scholarship sanctions, it was impossible to expect our defense to get off to an excellent start. I think I’ve been mostly correct prediction-wise, other than the Georgia fluke.
Kiley: I understood our offensive talent. That was a no-brainer! I had slight questions about the drop off in the QB run game with the loss of Marquise Williams. But, my main concern, like most Tar Heel fans, was the defense. Gene Chizik did a fantastic job in Year 1 with the Tar Heel defense, but the front 7 was still a question mark for me. I also understood that the Tar Heels have a much more difficult schedule this season.With all these factors, I still began the season thinking that UNC will again play for the ACC championship. Going 11-1 on the way there? That was much more difficult to believe.
Josh: Mitch Trubisky is coming off a five-touchdown performance against Pitt and has yet to throw an interception. What has to happen for him to have the same kind of success against Florida State’s secondary?
Trent: Although FSU’s secondary is going to be the strongest we’ve faced, I think Mitch just needs to come in with the same mindset that he’s had the past few games. Have confidence and don’t try to change anything, just stick with what’s worked for him. If he can do that, we could be in for one heck of a performance.
Kiley: I honestly think Mitch just needs to show up in order to have success in this game. Sure, this game is on the road in a hostile environment. But, let’s not lie to ourselves, the ‘Noles were torched through the air in Week 1 giving up over 300 yards and four TDs. I am not quick to compare Lamar Jackson’s stats against FSU to what Mitch Trubisky can do, mostly because Jackson did most of his damage on the ground. Still, we have seen opposing QB’s have A LOT of success against this defense. In the end, Trubisky’s success will hinge upon UNC’s offensive line. If Trubisky stays clean, look for another big game. If not, it could be a long day for the Heels.
Josh: Most fans will point to Trubisky vs. the ‘Noles secondary as the main battle to watch on Saturday. Which matchups do you feel confident about? Which ones worry you?
Trent: I feel confident about our offense going into this game. FSU showed a lot of weakness against Louisville’s monster of an offense. I think we have a lot of the similarities. Our O-line has played spectacularly the past two games and needs to keep that up. I’m a little worried about our D-line in this game because of how well Dalvin Cook played last week and our obvious struggles with containing the running game. That being said, our defense stepped up at the end last week and propelled us to the win. So, I have some confidence in them.
Kiley: Again, I feel confident about our NFL-caliber receivers and Mitch Trubisky against this secondary. The matchup to watch on the offensive side of the ball HAS to be the line of scrimmage. UNC gave up four sacks last week to Pittsburgh. With Demarcus Walker and Josh Sweat as FSU’s bookends on that D-line, the Tar Heel tackles have their work cut out for them. On the defensive side of the ball, it is a no-brainer. YOU MUST CONTAIN DALVIN COOK! Cook comes off a 267-yard game on the ground against USF. The Tar Heels front 7 MUST find a way to keep him tied up in order to have any chance of a victory.
Josh: Dalvin Cook, while not completely healthy, is coming off a 267-yard performance against USF. What does the Carolina defense have to do to stop Cook? How much success do you see the group having against Florida State’s offense?
Trent: We have got to come out early and pound that offensive line with everything we’ve got. If we can stop the momentum from rolling towards FSU’s running game, then we have a chance of controlling the tempo of the game. Nazair Jones will be a huge x-factor in this part of the game. In all honesty, I’m just hoping we can contain it enough to give our offense time to work.
Kiley: Again, the Tar Heel front 7 is a work in progress, and Dalvin Cook is going to get his yards regardless. What the UNC front 7 have to do is keep Cook from getting large chunk plays in the running game. A 7-8 yard run is better than a 40-50 yard run. In the end, I see another long day for the Tar Heel defense. Dalvin Cook’s success in the run game will open up play-action opportunities for Deondre Francois. It looks like the FSU offense will have a lot of success against the Heels.
Josh: Finally, give us a prediction. Who comes out of Doak Campbell on Saturday with the win, and why?
Trent: If asked this before last week’s game, I would’ve said FSU. Now, because of our comeback against Pitt, I’m going to say the Heels come out with a huge W this Saturday. UNC 35, FSU 28
Kiley: I hate going against my team, but there are just too many reasons to pick FSU in this game. Arguably the best running back in the ACC going up against a young front 7 that has not had much success in the first three weeks of the season. Throw in home field advantage and an overall talent advantage. UNC will keep it close with a LOT of offense. But, in the end, FSU can control the clock with the run game, and they move to 4-1 on the season with a 27-21 victory over the Heels. Do not be surprised, however, if UNC finds a way to win another close game on the strength of their offense.
Big thanks to Trent and Kiley for stopping by! For all news regarding the Tar Heels, head on over to our UNC page.