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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 29, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kenan Memorial Stadium (63,000) -- Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Television: Raycom Sports. Home Record: Idaho 0-2, UNC 2-0. Away Record: Idaho 0-2, UNC 0-2. Neutral Record: Idaho 0-0, UNC 0-0. Conference Record: Idaho 0-0, UNC 0-1. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Idaho Vandals will attempt to steal one on the road when they take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in a non-conference matchup at Kenan Memorial Stadium.
Idaho fell to 0-4 and lost its seventh game in a row dating back to last season last week, as it fell 40-37 in an overtime thriller against Wyoming. The Vandals opened up the season with defeats to Eastern Washington, Bowling Green, and LSU. Despite another dissatisfying result, last week's loss to the Cowboys was by far the best overall performance by Idaho. Coach Robb Akey is now in his sixth season at the helm of the program.
This will be the final non-conference game for UNC before it travels into the heart of its ACC schedule. The Tar Heels are 2-2 after last week's easy, 27-6 win over instate rival East Carolina. UNC won its only other home game, the season opener versus Elon, 62-0, however it lost its next two games on the road to Wake Forest (28-27) and Louisville (39-34). Coach Larry Fedora built Southern Miss into a feared mid-major program prior to taking over UNC's program this season. His career record coming into Saturday is 36-21.
The Vandals offense is gaining steam with Dominique Blackman under center. Since missing the season opener for a violation of team rules, the junior quarterback has thrown for 847 yards and six touchdowns with five interceptions. Blackman is ranked ninth nationally with a 73.1 completion percentage.
Running back Najee Lovett and wideout Jahrie Level are Idaho's leading receivers through four games with totals of 227 and 206 yards, respectively. Mike Scott is also becoming a consistent target, as he reeled in eight passes for 84 yards and a score in last week's loss to Wyoming.
Although the Vandals' aerial attack is steadily becoming more effective, its rushing attack is one of the worst in the FBS with an average of 84 yards per game. Ryan Bass showed he might be the answer to the team's problems last week as he gained 121 yards on 19 carries to keep the opposition honest.
Idaho's defense has not done anything to give its opponents a reason to worry coming into this one. The Vandals have given up a combined 103 points in their last two outings and have allowed an average of 428 total offensive yards per game through four games.
Benson Mayowa is a key player with three solo sacks, as is Gary Walker, who leads the team with 31 total tackles.
Much like its opponent, UNC relies heavily on passing for its offensive production. It is ranked 19th in the FBS with an average of 309 passing yards per contest.
The Tar Heels' aerial attack is captained by Bryn Renner, who has already thrown for 1,191 yards and 11 scores with three picks. Renner is coming off of his best performance of the season as he threw for 321 yards and two touchdowns without an interception on 27-of-43 passing in last week's win over the Pirates.
Renner's job is made much easier by the countless weapons he has at his disposal. Erik Highsmith, Eric Ebron, Sean Tapley, and Romar Morris are all capable of producing big receiving games on any given Saturday. Highsmith has tallied a team-best 243 yards, while Ebron is a scoring threat with three touchdowns.
The rushing attack has been slowed down by an injury to its feature back, Giovani Bernard. UNC had its sophomore tailback back last week and he gained 59 yards and a score on 18 carries to help the Tar Heels get past ECU in his return. The touchdown was the 19th of his young career.
Although UNC is solid against opposing rushing attacks, that will not matter much versus the pass friendly Vandals. Luckily for the home team, the Tar Heels are allowing a reasonable average 223.3 yards per game through the air.
UNC's aggressive defense should cause big problems for Idaho's offensive line. It leads the ACC in sacks (3.25) and tackles for loss (9.3) per contest.
Although Idaho is showing steady development with Blackman under center, it is far from being capable of upsetting a decent BCS team on the road. The Vandals will need to deliver a phenomenal performance to avoid being blown out in this one.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Carolina 41, Idaho 20
09/27 07:16:58 ET
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