The Miami Hurricanes and North Carolina Tar Heels meet Saturday in a game that will likely be decided when Miami is on defense. The Hurricanes are ranked No. 122 in total defense this season, ahead of only Louisiana Tech and Baylor.
Miami is one of six FBS teams allowing more than 500 yards per game. Against Notre Dame last Saturday, the Hurricanes allowed 587 yards, including 376 on the ground, in a 41-3 loss. SB Nation's Miami blog, State of the U, finds that defensive coordinator Mark D'Onofrio may be the main problem:
This is oversimplifying things, but what D'Onofrio seems to be doing is playing a version of a Prevent/Bend But Don't Break scheme, but for the entire game. This is presumably done in the hopes of turnovers and/or unforced mistakes by the offense having to drive the length of the field. It worked very well in the North Carolina State game, but this past Saturday against Notre Dame, obviously not so much.
Things won't get any easier against the Tar Heels, who average 44 points and 487 yards per game. North Carolina's run game, which averages 200 yards per game, could exploit Miami's biggest weakness. The Hurricanes are giving up 250 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 11th in the ACC. Even if D'Onofrio's game-planning improves, Miami's young defense may continue to struggle:
You don't win in D1 playing freshman, just like you don't win in the NFL playing rookies. These guys are 18 years old, most with only 3-6 months of weight lifting, conditioning, and playbooks under their belts, going up against grown men 3-4 years their senior.