Suffering their fourth loss of the season against Wyoming last week, Idaho has become a team on the verge of finely breaking through. Showing off an incredible offensive prowess, the Vandals came up one play short of getting their first win of 2012. Coach Robb Akey knows that this team has all the potential of being successful and that they just need to get over the few things they are still struggling with to get themselves back on the right track. FBS independence hinges on the team being able to turn their season around and they will attempt to do just that as they make their way out east to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in Chapel Hill.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS:
- Under center for North Carolina, junior quarterback Bryn Renner has had a nice string of solid performances through all four of the UNC’s games this year. He has thrown for at least 236 yards in every game and has recorded back to back 300+ yard games in a row in the last two weeks. Against Louisville, Renner threw for a season high 363 yards and five touchdowns. Standing at 6’3’’ and weighing 215 lbs, he is a big guy with a lot of strength and a good ability to get the ball down field, which is why UNC is ranked 19th in the nation for passing.
- Ranked 86th in the nation for rushing, North Carolina depends on three running-backs to get the job done on the ground. Running-backs A.J. Blue, Romar Morris and Giovani Bernard are all averaging at least five yards per carry when they are given the ball. Since the team uses three running-backs, their overall totals are low as each player has at least 27 carries on the year. Last week against Eastern Carolina, the team only rushed for 129 yards.
- As for the defense, North Carolina is only allowing 18.3 points per game, which places them at the 36th spot in the nation for points allowed. This stat is a little deceptive as they allowed 28 points against Wake Forest and 39 points against Louisville. A shut-out win against Elon helps bring that stat down from 24.3. Regardless of that, UNC has been getting at the quarterback all season long against opponents, recording 13 sacks and three interceptions so far in 2012.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR IDAHO:
- With last week’s game against Wyoming, Vandal fans watched the Idaho secondary get scorched again through the air. Allowing 365 yards and five passing touchdowns, Idaho must stop UNC’s Renner if they want to stay competitive and win this game. Pass coverage and pass defense has been a weak point for this team for some time now despite the fact the defense as a whole has gotten better. UNC might average 100+ yards a game on the ground, but ultimately it will be their pass game that will hurt Idaho if the secondary doesn’t step up in a big way.
- For the first time in years last week, Idaho looked like a team that knew what the term “balanced offense” meant. Utilizing their tools, they recorded 509 yards of total offense which included 203 yards of total rushing. Running the ball hasn’t been a strong point for of the Vandals since 2009 and it was refreshing to see the team go back to a time when they were able to mix up what they did offensively. Quarterback Dominique Blackman and running-back Ryan Bass need to do their part in getting their respective sections of the offense in gear to compete with a tough UNC defense.
- For the Vandal offense to succeed, the offensive line needs to continue to improve and reduce the amount of mistakes their still making. UNC’s defense will be coming hard on every play, so it’s important for the offensive line be ready for what could be a long day against a team that favors rushing the quarterback and putting pressure on the backfield. Blackman is going to need some time in the pocket to be able to find his wide receivers and if offensive line isn’t able to provide in that time, the biggest part of Idaho’s offense will be shut down.
For four straight games, Idaho has been searching for that the one thing. That one thing that would ultimately put them over the top and finely help them get their first win of 2012. While the struggles they have encountered and did their best to work through are not new for Idaho’s program, the progress that they’ve made towards resolving them has been substantial. The offense finally has started running in the way that everyone hoped for at beginning of the season and the defense has made great strides in becoming one of the best in the conference. For the Vandals, they’ve come to a point where it’s all about bringing everything positive from this early season and putting it together.
The second of two tough road games, UNC will pose many problems for Idaho. Their two losses came against fairly good teams and they could have easily been 3-1 if the chips had fallen their way against Louisville. Despite all the progress that Idaho has made, it’s still hard to think that they’ll be able to go into Chapel Hill and come out with a win. The nagging issues with pass coverage will probably be their undoing this time as they take on another quarterback with a strong arm and a high tendency to go to the air. Watch for the game to be competitive and for Idaho’s offense to show some fight, but UNC will probably be too much in the long run and the result will be the same for the Vandals that it has been for the last four games.
NCAA 13 Prediction: North Carolina 38 Idaho 7
My Prediction: North Carolina 27 Idaho 17
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