When Idols Become Rivals: Mack Brown and Manny Diaz

Mack Brown And Manny Diaz
North Carolina head coach Mack Brown and Miami head coach Manny Diaz. (Photos courtesy Getty Images)

Miami and North Carolina have both been through some turmoil in the past 12 months. For the Tar Heels, the program has been unstable to say the least. Between suspensions and back to back seasons of two and three wins, there hasn’t been much hope. The firing of Larry Fedora, who tied the school record for most wins in a season, essentially was a reset for UNC. North Carolina would look to a familiar face from the past in Mack Brown. He made the decision to leave the television booth after having been out of coaching since 2013.

On the other hand, for Miami it has been consistent failure to meet expectations. After seeing a glimpse of success in Mark Richt‘s second season, the Hurricanes reverted back to mediocrity. Richt would abruptly retire and send Miami back to rehire Manny Diaz, weeks after taking the Temple job.

Mack Brown And Manny Diaz

In Manny Diaz’s second head coaching game he’ll be facing another one of his former bosses after losing to Dan Mullen in the season opener. Now in his second game he’ll face off against Brown, who fired him as defensive coordinator at the University of Texas.

For Mack Brown, it’s an opportunity to put the Tar Heels into the ACC conversation. Coming off a win against an South Carolina with a true freshmen at quarterback, confidence is high in Chapel Hill. The Coastal division has been unpredictable in recent years which is another reason why the Tar Heels have as good of a chance as any team. Fans are believing in the return of “The Mack” and this week’s game has already sold out.

 

Miami’s Keys To Victory

Defense

  • The last two times that the Hurricanes have faced off against the Tar Heels, turnovers have been a big factor. In fact, in the last two games Miami has ten turnovers, including six last season when three of them were returned for touchdowns. That trend has to continue with freshmen quarterback Sam Howell for the Hurricanes to be successful. Miami was able to force four turnovers in their opening game against Florida, duplicating that performance will help Miami.
  • Last season the Hurricanes led the nation in tackles and against North Carolina racked up 14 tackles for loss. If Miami could make plays in the Tar Heels backfield, it will add more pressure on Howell to force the ball on third downs.

Offense

  • Miami’s offense struggled against Florida’s defensive line which resulted in ten sacks being given up. Part of that was on Jarren Williams holding the ball a tad too long and other times they were late off the ball. Miami has to stay on track on first and second down to keep the two freshmen offensive tackles out of obvious blitz situations. DeeJay Dallas and Cam’ron Harris both need strong rushing performances.
  • The Tar Heels should receive some experience back at linebacker after having to play a former quarterback in week one. Even with the players returning, Miami has to take advantage of the matchups that tight end Brevin Jordan will draw. Finding receivers like Jeff Thomas on crossing routes early in the middle of the field will expose their linebackers.
  • Perhaps the biggest key for Miami’s offense is to finish drives. Of the four turnovers that Miami got on Florida, the offense was only able to capitalize three points from that. The red zone is prime position and has to be treated as such. South Carolina allowed the Tar Heels to gain momentum by leaving points on the field and it ultimately cost them.

Final Thought

Both teams will be playing freshmen quarterbacks in a high intensity environment, so anything could happen. Miami will need to control the tempo and battle back from the adversity of an ACC road game. The Hurricanes looked very sloppy in the opening week but after a bye week should improve tremendously. The ability to pressure Howell will ultimately decide the fate of the game. North Carolina is heading into the game confident but Miami has the chance to crash the party and showcase their defense, which many to believe to be one of the best in the ACC.

 

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My name is pronounced just like the book in the Bible (Hebrew) but someone at the hospital decided to replace the W, with a U. I am 23 years old at the moment, I am also a recent graduate of Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, TN. I am a South Florida native, more specifically Pompano Beach, Florida. I remember watching Sean Taylor's highlights on the news in 2003 and it was a wrap after that, my obsession with the game began. I'm always looking to connect with others who share a love for the sport so feel free to reach out.

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