No. 21 UNC (0-0) vs. The Citadel (0-0)
[6 p.m., Sept. 5, Kenan Memorial Stadium]
Key stats: In two openers as UNC’s starting quarterback, T.J. Yates compiled 439 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Although not outstanding performances (Russell Wilson would beg to differ after the N.C. State-USC game), Yates moved the ball enough to keep defenses honest in the running game. With Dwight Jones now out for the contest, Carolina’s success this season depends on the receiving corps. No pressure or anything, guys.
Saturday is just the fourth meeting between the two light blue Southern schools; Carolina defeated The Citadel in all three previous contests, including the last meeting Sept. 6, 1986.
The key stat for the Bulldogs is two — the number of ankle injuries limiting their chances of an upset. Potential All-American receiver Andre Roberts, with 2,951 career receiving yards and 29 touchdowns, and quarterback Bart Blanchard both are recovering from ankle injuries suffered during preseason practice.
Best message board tidbit on the game: The Citadel look-a-likes from CarolinaBlue.com.
My personal favorite: Receiver Scott Harward and Spock.
UNC will win if … The Heels move the ball through the air and give running back Shaun Draughn room for a 100-yard outing. Draughn, although not known for break-away runs, can consistently get 4 or 5 yards if the defense isn’t stacking the line of scrimmage.
If the Tar Heel defensive line — led by 305-pound Marvin Austin — swallows up The Citadel’s rushing attack without needing safety support, All-American Roberts will be smothered the entire game.
The Citadel will win if … Carolina’s offense is worse than advertised and Roberts goes nuts against a Trimane Goddard-less defense.
If UNC’s Greg Little can’t open up the secondary, then Saturday could look a lot like Thursday night’s 7-3 borefest.
What people are saying about the game: Tom O’Brien overheard after losing to South Carolina: “Call Butch, we need to get some of those FCS guys’ phone numbers.”
OK, seriously now.
‘Kevin Higgins, who is the head football coach at The Citadel, is a very, very good head football coach,” UNC coach Butch Davis said during Wednesday’s ACC teleconference. “He had some truly outstanding performances as a position coach in the NFL, and you can see evidence of all of the things that he has learned at both of those places in his football team.”
Vegas line (0-0): UNC (-35.5)
My prediction (0-0): Carolina’s front seven earns the Tar Heels a touchdown or two while Yates manages to make a few big plays through the air. The Citadel will move the ball but won’t be able to get into the end zone enough to compete in the scoring column even against an average Tar Heel offense.
Heels win the battle of the light blues 31-13.
NCAA Football 10 simulation score (0-0): 47-10