NCAA Football

UNC vs. Wake Forest: three things to watch out for

The North Carolina Tar Heels have one final challenge on the road, and it’s going to be a big one.

As the only team in the country with a 5-0 record on the road, Carolina is looking to end its away schedule with a win this weekend at Winston-Salem.

While UNC recovered to overcome second-half deficits in the last three games, Wake Forest stumbled in the last two games and dropped from the rankings.

Even so, Las Vegas has the Demon Deacons as a 3.5-point favorite.

Unlucky and still fighting for respect, here are some things to watch Saturday night at Truist Field.

Creating Turnover

In each of the last two games, Wake Forest has racked up more than 400 attacking yards.

Deac also committed 11 turnovers.

Yes, 11 in two games. That includes eight turnovers against Louisville.

These turnovers are the ultimate neutralizer of the ACC’s second-best offense.

During Carolina’s five-game winning streak, the Tar Heels have +2 to their turnover margin. UNC’s victory over Duke was the only game where they were underwater on the turnover margin.

Wake Forest is looking for any solution to this terrible streak of turnovers, and Carolina needs impact plays to force WF to keep coughing up the ball.

With UNC’s recent run of defensive first-half performances, a forced turnover or two before halftime would boost Carolina’s chances on the road.

Solidifying the running game

After weeks of committee running, or very little action outside of Drake Maye, the Tar Heels may have their RB1.

Elijah Green is receiving rave reviews from coaches, teammates, reporters and fans.

Here’s offensive coordinator Phil Longo at his press conference after the Virginia game:

I think he’s very decisive in terms of making a decision and finding that little crease. Only the smallest of creases is inviting to him. And he’s going to shift into fifth gear and go downhill. He has a low level of cushion and he has high knees. He’s just physical. I think he’s hard to deal with if you’re the first fiancé. He doesn’t have many moves, but he plays downhill. And he does it with speed.

Against the Cavaliers, Green had 22 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown. Those 22 attempts are the most by a running back in a single game this season.

The need for a reliable run was evident in the fourth quarter in Charlottesville. Carolina needed to maintain possession of the ball while still moving the ball around the field.

This was a point made by coach Mack Brown during the field interview immediately following the victory over Virginia.

Look for Green to be a top contributor this weekend.

Slowing down Sam Hartman

Junior quarterback Sam Hartman is having another solid season, although he is below expectations based on his great year in 2021.

During Wake’s two-game losing streak, Hartman was fired 11 times and threw six interceptions. He also recorded negative rushing yards in both games.

He managed just 271 yards against Louisville. The Cardinals’ seven sacks were a major factor in Hartman’s season-low 57.1 completion percentage.

Despite throwing for nearly 400 yards against NC State, the three interceptions, non-existent running game and goalless third quarter made Hartman and the Deacs last week.

Even so, WF only suffered a nine-point loss.

The Tar Heels may not be able to stop Hartman, but they must find a way to slow him down. Second half adjustments by the UNC defense were critical to this five-game winning streak. Look for more of the same on Saturday.

Leave a Comment