College Football Previews: UNC kicks off Week 5 tonight at Miami

App State, Wake, ECU at home; Charlotte travels to UAB

UNC's Antonio Williams runs against Pittsburgh's Dennis Briggs during their game last week in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels play in Miami on Thursday. (Gerry Broome / AP Photo)

North Carolina at Miami
Hard Rock Stadium  |  Thursday, 8 p.m.  |  ESPN

Preview: The Tar Heels posted their long-awaited first win of the season last week, against Pitt. They get back seven previously suspended players, including QB Chazz Surratt and WR Beau Corrales. Miami looks to win two straight in the series for the first time since 2013-14.

Players to watch: Miami DT Gerald Willis III leads the NCAA with 10 tackles for loss and has had at least three TFL in three games this year. The Tar Heels had a 300-yard passer (Nathan Elliott), 100-yard rusher (Antonio Williams) and 100-yard receiver (Dazz Newsome) for the 10th time in school history.

Fast fact: Miami plays its second straight game against a current/former UNC coach. The Canes beat Butch Davis-coached FIU last week.

What to expect: Carolina looked like it had righted the ship last week, but playing the Coastal champs on a short week is a big ask.

— Shawn Krest

Wake Forest vs. Rice
BB&T Field  |  Saturday, 3:30 p.m.  |  Fox Sports Carolinas

Preview: The Deacons (2-2) look to bounce back from two straight home losses in their final nonconference game this season. The Owls have lost three straight, allowing 40 or more points in each since opening the season with a win against Prairie View A&M.

Players to watch: WR/QB Kendall Hinton caught three passes for 23 yards and rushed once for a 23-yard TD in his first game back from suspension for Wake. CB Essang Bassey leads the Deacons with 29 tackles and five pass breakups. Rice RB Emmanuel Esukpa averages 98.8 rushing yards per game. P Jack Fox ranks among the top 10 nationally with an average of 45.5 yards and seven punts of 50 yards or more.

Fast fact: Wake coach Dave Clawson fired defensive coordinator Jay Sawvel on Sunday after his unit allowed 41 and 56 points the past two weeks.

What to expect: The Deacons couldn’t have picked a more opportune opponent to try and get back on the right track.

— Brett Friedlander

ECU vs. Old Dominion
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium  |  Saturday, 3:30 p.m.  |  ESPN3

Preview: This originally figured to be an opportunity for an easy win for the improving Pirates (1-2). But that was before the Monarchs (1-3) shocked Virginia Tech last Saturday.

Players to watch: WR Trevon Brown is ECU’s big-play threat, averaging 14.5 yards per catch on 17 receptions. DE Nate Harvey had 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks to lead a defense that limited USF to less than 300 total yards last week. ODU QB Blake LaRussa threw for 495 yards and four TDs in the upset of the Hokies. DE Oshane Ximines has 26 career sacks, second most among active FBS players nationally.

Fast fact: The Pirates recorded six sacks in their 20-13 loss at USF. That’s more than half of their total from the entire 2017 season and only two fewer than they had in 12 games in 2016.

What to expect: ODU may be a more dangerous opponent than it seemed before last Saturday, but ECU should still be favored against a team that has lost to Liberty, FIU and Charlotte.

— Brett Friedlander

Appalachian State vs. South Alabama
Kidd-Brewer Stadium  |  Saturday, 3:30 p.m.  |  ESPN+

Preview: The teams have only met twice as Sun Belt Conference members, and the road team has won each previous matchup.

Players to watch: South Alabama WR Jamarius Way had his second straight 100-yard game with 10 catches and 185 yards against Memphis. He had four catches of more than 20 yards in that game. App State special teamers have scored four touchdowns in three games: punt returns by Clifton Duck and Thomas Hennigan, a kickoff return by Darrynton Evans and a blocked and recovered punt by Steven Jones.

Fast fact: The university president at South Alabama is former Tar Heel track star Tony Waldrop. He was a six-time All-American at UNC, won NCAA titles in the indoor 1,000 yards and indoor mile, and set a world record in the indoor mile.

What to expect: South Alabama is 1-2 in the state of North Carolina with a win at App and two losses at NC State. The Jags will have to play a perfect game to even their record.

— Shawn Krest

Charlotte at UAB
Legion Field  |  Saturday, 7 p.m.  |  ESPN3

Preview: UAB is coming off a bye week, while Charlotte suffered a tough loss at Massachusetts. Both teams have two wins, with UAB holding a victory over Tulane and Charlotte one over Old Dominion, a win that looks more impressive after ODU’s upset of Virginia Tech last week.

Players to watch: UAB leads Conference USA in rushing and is eighth in the nation with 280 rushing yards per game. They are led by CUSA’s individual rushing leader, RB Spencer Brown, who has two 100-yard games this year, including 101 in a win over Tulane. Charlotte WR Victor Tucker set a 49ers freshman record with 130 yards last week. It was his second 100-yard game of the year, also a school freshman record.

Fast fact: UAB hasn’t lost a home game since resuming its football program last year. A win over Charlotte would be its ninth straight at Legion Field, setting an school record.

What to expect: UAB has the second-best pass defense in the country, which could make the going tough for a Charlotte team that only had 81 rushing yards against UMass.

— Shawn Krest