It's almost gameday, so that means time to kick off our Q&A series for the 2012 ACC football season with Brian from Tar Heel Blog. The Deacs have their work cut out for them against the Tar Heels, who blew the doors off of Elon last week, while Wake limped to a victory over Liberty. WFU will have to keep pace with a high-octane Tar Heel offense, which means the offensive line will have to do a lot more than they did against the Flames.
We talk predictions, Gio Bernard, the pressure of Sylvester Williams and more after the jump ...
1.) What did you guys learn from the Elon game? Obviously the score is flashy, but are there still problems that you're seeing that need to be addressed?
My general take on evaluating the performance against a weak FCS school is if you blow their doors off and play well from an execution standpoint, that is something you can take from that game. In other words, UNC was supposed to be able to do what it did to Elon. UNC executed extremely well all the way around which is especially important since the schemes were completely different from a year ago.
Larry Fedora wants faster execution on offense and more plays, but overall it was a good day and a clear solid first step in the right direction.
2.) Gio Bernard torched Wake last year, and although the Wake Forest defense is better as a whole on paper, he's a good enough back to carve out a nice day. In your opinion, what's the game plan -- ground and pound, an aerial attack or a balanced mix?
Fedora likes a balanced attack but also believes UNC's best chance to win is for the best offensive player on the team to touch the ball as often as possible(which makes him the antithesis of John Bunting, who refused to play Willie Parker, but I digress.) That means Bernard is going to run, catch passes and return punts. Obviously he will run the ball more, and given Bernard's speed and agility in combination with the transformation of the offensive line into a more mobile group, there will be run calls to the outside.
In some respects, it is a waste for Bernard to pound the interior of the line unless there happens to be a huge hole opened for him. He clearly does most of his damage when he gets to the edge and turns the corner on the defense. I would expect to see runs like that and short passes which give him the ball in space to make something happen.
3.) How will the Tar Heel defense approach stopping Tanner Price on Saturday?
Having only seen one game with the new defensive scheme, it is unclear how UNC will key on a particular quarterback. Fedora believes in attacking under control and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams can be extremely dominant in infiltrating the backfield. Outside of that, UNC will throw a lot of different looks around since there are two hybrid positions that allow the defense to shift the personnel on the fly. The concern is there are gaps that can be exploited and Price is an experience, well coached QB who could do just that.
4.) Usually whenever a team plays Wake, there's an uncanny knack for an unsung hero having a career day. Who will be that guy for UNC? Who's the sleeper or x-factor we should be keeping an eye on?
That's a tough question since Fedora's offense spreads the ball around so well. Against Elon, 14 different Tar Heels caught a pass and no one had more than 60 yards receiving. However, the overall X-factor might be the punt return and not because of Gio Bernard. It was clear from the Elon game, Fedora is committed to setting up a return even if it means sacrificing a chance to block the punt. UNC pulled everyone back on punt returns and setup some nice runs even after Bernard left the game.
On the day, UNC broke a school record racking up 260 return yards on punts. Granted, it was Elon, but should the Heels do a good job of staking good field position on punt returns it could shift the balance of the game.
5.) How do you see this thing playing out? What's your final score?
This will be UNC's first road game under Fedora, and Wake will certainly be looking to bury the memories of a poor outing versus Liberty. Both teams are well coached, and I think that makes this a nice matchup because I think both Fedora and Grobe excel at the Xs and Os but also understand how to get most out of the little things. Ultimately, I think UNC wins because Bernard proves to be too much for Wake Forest to handle.
UNC 38 Wake 27.
Thanks again to Brian, and you can follow him on Twitter @TarHeelBlog.