Before the season began, North Carolina was widely considered to be one of the teams that could emerge from a jumbled Coastal Division. The Tar Heels were even picked by three media members to win the league. However, they've gotten off to a disastrous start to 2013, including an 0-2 start in league play with losses to Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech. It's going to be incredibly difficult for them to rally their way out of that hole and make a run at the division, but if they want some glimmer of hope, they're going to have to top Miami this week.
Miami, on the other hand, is so far living up to preseason expectations, and has yet to lose a game. It doesn't hurt that this week's game at UNC will be the Hurricanes' first foray outside the state of Florida all season (though they have played a game on the road -- at South Florida).
Also, UNC's going black:
Rankings and records: Miami, 5-0 (1-0), is ranked No. 10 in the AP Poll and No. 11 in the Coaches Poll. Unranked North Carolina comes in at 1-4 (0-2). UNC owns a 9-7 record against Miami all-time.
Vegas: Miami opened as a 7.5-point favorite, and the over/under opened at 60.
Weather: The high in Chapel Hill is expected to hit 72 degrees, and there is a slight chance of rain.
Three names to know
Stephen Morris -- Morris keys an offense averaging more than 45 points per game this season, and it's up against a UNC defense that has had some serious issues this season. Morris hasn't had to throw the ball a lot this year, but he's been efficient, completing 61.7 percent of his throws while averaging 10.1 yards per attempt.
Eric Ebron -- Ebron is the best pass-catching tight end in the ACC and he's been the favorite target of UNC's quarterbacks; he leads the team with 23 receptions and 333 receiving yards. Along with receiver Quinshad Davis, Ebron will be a significant part of what the Heels want to do offensively.
Duke Johnson -- The explosive Hurricanes running back is second in the league with 572 yards on the ground, and he is one of just two ACC running backs averaging more than 100 yards on the ground per game. (Boston College's Andre Williams is the other.)
Two things at stake
Miami may be off to a 1-0 start in league play, but its position is still somewhat precarious because Virginia Tech is off to a 3-0 start and already has wins in hand against both the Heels and Yellow Jackets. The Hurricanes' division hopes aren't killed with a loss to the Heels, but they lose some margin for error later if they were to be upset Thursday night.
North Carolina isn't thinking about division stakes right now -- it's worried about finding a way to bowl eligibility. Given the back half of the Heels' schedule, it's doable, but it's obviously all the more difficult if Miami hands them their fifth loss of the year.
How to witness
TV: ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET (Rece Davis, David Pollack, Jesse Palmer, Sam Ponder)
Online streaming: WatchESPN