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Thursday, November 19, 2009

UNC-BC Preview: Eagles try to keep pace in Atlantic race

Posted by on Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 7:36 PM

North Carolina (7-3) at Boston College (7-3)

[12 p.m., Nov. 21, Alumni Stadium]

Televised by ESPN2

North Carolina travels to Chestnut Hill to begin its two-game stretch of revenge games -- with the first against a Boston College team the Heels thrashed 45-24 in Chapel Hill last season.

BC needs a win and a Clemson loss in order to advance to the ACC title game.  UNC is jostling for bowl position, including an outside chance of reaching the coveted Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Key stats: Boston College defends a 6-0 home record when UNC comes to town Saturday.  If BC wins, it will be the second time since 1985 that BC finished undefeated at home.

UNC has been inconsistent on the road this season, getting blown out by Georgia Tech and then stunning the Hokies in Blacksburg.

T.J. Yates' decision making is a big reason the Heels will go bowling. (File photo by Rob Rowe)
  • T.J. Yates' decision making is a big reason the Heels will go bowling. (File photo by Rob Rowe)

The most important statistic in this battle of top-30 defenses will be turnovers.  UNC coughed up the ball twice in its three-game winning streak against Virginia Tech, Duke and Miami.

Meanwhile, BC turned the ball over 12 times in its three losses on the season, and UNC has forced 22 turnovers through 10 games.

Best message board tidbit on the game: A poster on InsideCarolina.com writes:

1. Our D will kill them with speed, gang tackles, QB pressure, and forced turnovers.

2. John Shoop will dial up another game plan to keep them off balance.

3. TJ plays better away from home, so he will play better.

4. We will convert more red zone opportunities into TDs instead of FGs.

5. Woad and I will not post during the game.

And most important of all.

6. Heather Dimwit has picked BC to win. She never gets our games right.

UNC will win if ... T.J. Yates continues to take care of the ball and make a big play or two through the air.  Offensive coordinator John Shoop has asked Yates to throw fewer risky passes and instead has relied on Ryan Houston plugging through the middle along with effectively using receivers in the running game.

Boston College will win if ... Quarterback Dave Shinskie doesn't throw interceptions.  Jacory Harris learned last week that even if you can move the ball against the UNC defense, turnovers will flat out kill any chance you have of scoring.

UNC gets a big break from a string of dangerous quarterbacks after facing Christian Ponder, Tyrod Taylor, Thaddeus Lewis and Harris.  Of the four, Ponder had the most success but even he was rattled in the first half.

What people are saying about the game:

They are a big time football team ... there's no question about that, senior linebacker Mike McLaughlin said.  Obviously, they put a hurting on us last year, and I've been watching tape on them.  They have some NFL players on their team.  We can't come out with anything but our best.  I think it is going to be a showdown defensively.

Vegas line (6-4): BC (-4)

My prediction (7-3): After UNC played solid football the past four games, a string of mistake-free football from the offense seems like it should end Saturday.

But something about BC doesn't seem right.  Losses to Virginia Tech and Clemson, the only two great defenses BC played, exposed a turnover-crazy offense and UNC should have similar success against Shinskie Saturday.

The key for the Heels, as it has been for the entire season, is whether Yates manages the offense by limiting mistakes.  I think Butch Davis keeps rolling and UNC ends BC's undefeated home stand.

UNC 23, BC 14

NCAA Football 10 simulation score (6-4): UNC 35, BC 3

UNC key performance:  Running back Ryan Houston, 30 carries, 137 yards, two touchdowns

BC key performance:  Linebacker Mike McLaughlin, 11 solo tackles, one tackle for a loss, one interception

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