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Tar Heels, Hurricanes Looking to Respond

By Matt Osborne
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A loss early in conference play is disappointing. But, playing in the Coastal Division, it is far from being crippling.

With five of the seven contests in the ACC this weekend having a double-digit spread, it is safe to say that this is a relatively weak slate of games for the conference.

Even so, that does not mean that this weekend will be completely devoid of exciting matchups or games with significant ramifications.

Though is certainly won’t grab the headlines nationally, there is no bigger game in the Atlantic Coast Conference this Saturday than North Carolina (4-2, 2-1 ACC) traveling south to take on No. 16 Miami (4-1, 1-1 ACC) in a Coastal Division showdown.

North Carolina is coming off of a surprising 34-3 home defeat at the hands of Virginia Tech in a game that was played in heavy rain brought about by the presence of Hurricane Matthew. Meanwhile, Miami suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss at home to Florida State on a blocked extra point late in the fourth quarter in its most recent outing.

A loss which comes relatively early in conference play can oftentimes be demoralizing for a team which had legitimates hopes of competing for a divisional title.

But the good news for both the Tar Heels and the Hurricanes is that there is no real reason to panic after their weekend losses. Three of the last four Coastal Division champions have lost at least two conference games on their way to the ACC Championship Game, with last fall’s North Carolina squad being the lone exception to the trend.

What that means for both programs is that there is still plenty of reason for optimism as we get ready to make our way to the second half of the 2016 regular season.

On paper, this appears to be a relatively evenly-matched contest between a pair of teams with tremendous offensive balance and explosiveness. Miami running backs Mark Walton and Joseph Yearby both rank inside the top ten in the conference in rushing yards, while quarterback Brad Kaaya is projected by most experts to be a first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft. North Carolina, conversely, has one of the country’s top first-year starting signal callers in Mitch Trubisky, who has completed over 70 percent of his passing attempts through the first six contests.

In all likelihood, though, the outcome of Saturday’s contest will not be determined as much by physical talent as it will be by mental toughness.

It is always difficult to project how a team will respond to a demoralizing loss in a big game, which is exactly what happened to each of these teams that last time they ran onto the gridiron.

A loss early in conference play is disappointing. But, playing in the Coastal Division, it is far from being crippling.

The key for Miami and North Carolina now becomes finding a way from allowing one loss to develop into back-to-back defeats. It is a matter of erasing the bad memory from the last outing and focusing on the quality opponent which will be lined up across from you this weekend.

Whenever you have teams that have about the same amount of talent and athleticism on the roster, the outcome usually comes down to the intangibles.

For this week, that intangible will be mental toughness and the ability to move past a bad showing.

Matt Osborne - Matt Osborne currently serves as the director of recruiting and lead editor for Southern Pigskin. His work has been published in a number of national publications, including USA Today. Although he loves all levels of football, Matt's number one joy in his life is his relationship with Jesus Christ. Follow Matt on Twitter: @MattOsborne200. For media requests, please email Matt at