Friday, September 30, 2005

The Truck That Ran Over UNC

The big red truck is rolling into Chapel Hill. On the side of the giant rig it reads the "“University of Utah Utes"”. What truck you ask? The big red one that ran over the UNC Tar Heels last season 46-16 and left the Tar Heels wounded and wondering "“Did anyone see the name on the truck that hit us?" Truth be known, this season'’s version of the big red truck is hardly the same as the one led by Alex Smith and Urban Meyer last season. In fact, UNC looks to be a better team than the squad that was bombed at Rice Eccles last season and Utah looks to be dangerous but doesn'’t seem to be capable of the same type of demolition.

Big Rig

The Tar Heels are solid where it matters most and the result is optimism abound. On offense they are getting big plays out of new starting quarterback, senior Matt Baker, and feature a dangerous tailback Barrington Edwards who is coming off a career high 129 yards. Perhaps the strength of their team is found in the trenches, with their offensive and defensive lines, two areas where they were dominated last season by the Utes. The Tar Heels, playing at home, are feeling confident and wanting to avenge last season'’s embarrassment.

In fact, revenge is sounding like the big motivator for UNC.

"They kept their foot on our throat," linebacker Tommy Richardson. "Even though they were in control of the game, they were passing a lot and running trick plays. I'm looking forward to this game."

"This team's always going to have fighters on it," wide receiver Jesse Holley says. "The head coach is a fighter, and he recruits fighters. This game with Utah is personal and it means something. We want to get back to .500. And we owe them."

University of North Carolina Tar Heels Full Size Replica Riddell Helmet

Not wanting to burst the Carolina revenge bubble, but the spread offense doesn'’t just become "“un-spread"” because you have a lead. Utah was able to play many players off it'’s bench in the thrashing of Tar Heels last year and they could have run it up, which they did not. In fact the 46 points Utah scored last year was pretty much a typical scoring night for the high powered Utes who averaged 45.3 points per game last year. It even could be argued that Utah did in some way call off the dogs as the offense didn'’t score in the final 12 and half minutes. In fact, in only one other home game (Texas A&M) did Utah score fewer points (41). It is true that Utah set a UNC record for most yards allowed to an opponent of 669. UNC'’s offense was just as bad as their defense as they only mustered 221 yards. Was it Utah'’s fault that the ACC team probably over-looked the Utes? Was it Utah'’s fault that the ‘Heels probably thought the Ute offense was a gimmicky and finesse system prior to the game? Of course not on both counts. So apparantely it must be Utah'’s fault that they physically dominated the Tar Heels in a game in which 9 Tar Heels were injured and didn'’t let their opponent feel as though they had a chance. Memo to the Tar Heels, "“You were nothing special, the Utes destroyed every opponent last year." ” Actually some of the blame for last season's result could be shouldered by the UNC. If I remember correctly the Tar Heels had three players suspended for marijuana use the week of the Utah game, including a top receiver and a key defender.

So now forgetting the past, this year'’s Utes must show some toughness on the road. It would seem that Vegas believes Utah isn'’t ready to do that and has established UNC as a 3 ½ point favorite. To be honest, most of the talk is making this out to be a very tough game and not one that Utah will win.Utah Utes replica mini helme utah utes replica mini helme

How good is UNC? The Talk and The Truth

The Talk is that UNC has a strong and quick defense that has held up pretty well against some good competition. The Truth is that UNC is still giving up about 22 points per game, and while their opponents have been solid, none of them are offensive juggernauts (Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, NC State). Also, the supposedly improved defense has yet to make an interception in the first three games.

The Talk is that Matt Baker is a good QB and a great leader. The Truth is that he only has 4 TDs on the season and 5 Interceptions. He has made a couple big plays, including an 87-yard touchdown pass, but is still completing less than half his passes. Statistics show he is hardly the strenghth of their team.

The Talk is that UNC'’s offense is improved this season and starting to hit it'’s stride following a 31-24 victory over NC State. The Truth is that they are only averaging 19 points per game on the season and 9 of their 57 points were scored by their defense. Add to that another TD the offense scored after getting the ball inside the 5-yard line, and this low scoring team has had nearly 30% of their points resulting from their defense on the season.

Thinking about what will happen...

I think Utah is the probably the best team UNC has faced so far this season. If this game was in Salt Lake City, I'’d say Utah would win by 7-10 points. The fact this game is in North Carolina, and this Utah team hasn'’t yet cleared the road game hurdle, is what makes this game very close. You can argue that UNC is a faster team than Utah and better on the defensive line that the Utes, but you'’d have a hard time arguing the ‘Heels are better than Utah in any other area.

The Questions:

Can Utah limit UNC'’s running game better than they did at TCU this season?

Keeping UNC from grinding out long drives on their home field should be a key. Especially early on, as Utah'’s defense could get wore down late in the game if forced to stay on the field too much. Air Force also had similar rushing success early in the game against the Utes.

Can UNC mix it up enough on defense to confuse or slow down Brian Johnson?

TCU did this by getting Utah to expect blitzing, but then playing more zone coverage later in the game. Odds are that the same tactic won'’t work again against the quick learning Johnson. However, he hasn'’t been played enough to have seen it all yet. Also, if UNC can limit UtahÂ’s first down yardage and force the Utes to have 3rd and long, they will put a lot of pressure on the Johnson, as Utah hasn'’t excelled on 3rd down this season as they did last year.

The Outlook:

I think the odds makers have this game about right. I want to be wrong. But, I have a feeling that Utah will lose a close game in North Carolina. This will be Utah'’s first chance to surprise us this year and if they jumped up and bit the ‘Heels, it would be a huge step in the growth of this team. But, I'’m not sure they are ready for that step. I don'’t think they will walk away feeling like UNC was a better team, in fact, I'’d guess UNC won'’t even get the vindication they are seeking. The fact that this is a road game and not an easy trip on Utah will cause them to be less efficient than normal. Don't get me wrong, I don'’t expect Utah to make a lot of mistakes, but I think perhaps the big play will be missing this time around. UNC will run well enough to keep the tempo to their liking and eek out a victory 23-20.

Want to read more about the North Carolina Tar Heels? Visit the Tar Heel Blue website.

Want to know what a Tar Heel is? Here are two definitions I found:

(a) In the civil war a regiment from the state of North Carolina held their line while their foe retreated. Hence, they held the line like they had tar on theidefinition (this is probably the preferred defintion).

(b) An old derogatory term relating to areas of poverty in North Carolina. The people in the area were so poor they didn'’t have shoes and as a result had tar on their heels.

Incidently, The Daily Tarheel is also picking a narrow victory for boys in powder blue. You can read more about their projected 28-24 victory for the home team.


Denny said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Network Marketing said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
SDS said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
TS said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
'Thought & Humor' said...

Go Wolfpack:O)

just7bucks said...

A Utah Fan... I'm hoping you'll like these sweet pics of the new look Utah Jazz!!! Sweet Pics

Singnals3 said...

The fact that this is a road game...................!!!