Oct. 26, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Gerald Sensabaugh spent most of North Carolina's week off studying tapes of Miami, and he saw the speed, the talent and the big-play capability.

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He also saw something else.

"It's probably the most simple offense we've seen," the Tar Heels strong safety said Tuesday. "They're really talented, but they basically run the same play over and over again. In the games I've watched, they've probably run like six plays."

This is Sensabaugh's first season with North Carolina -- he transferred from Division I-AA East Tennessee State when the school disbanded its program -- so perhaps he can be forgiven for not fully understanding the nuances of "bulletin board material." Still, while he gave the fourth-ranked Hurricanes credit for their skill level, he didn't seem overly concerned with Saturday's game.

"I have a lot of respect for them, but they can be beaten," Sensabaugh said. "If we go out there and play like we can, we can shut anybody down."

And what about Miami quarterback Brock Berlin, who has eight touchdown passes in the last two games?

"He's not the best quarterback, he's all right," Sensabaugh said. "He doesn't really make the type throws he should be able to make. He makes a lot of simple throws, nothing too complicated."

A printout of Sensabaugh's remarks was passed around following Miami's practice on Tuesday. Most of the Hurricanes seemed more amused than angered.

"Bulletin board stuff is just that -- for the bulletin board," Hurricanes offensive lineman Chris Myers said. "Once you get on the field, you're not even thinking about what's been said or the media or the rankings."

Imagine how confident Sensabaugh would be if the Tar Heels (3-4, 2-2 ACC) had actually stopped -- or even slowed down -- an opponent this season. They rank next-to-last in the country in total defense, giving up an average of nearly 504 yards.

That includes a total of 1,246 yards in their last two games -- a victory over North Carolina State (577) and a loss to No. 9 Utah (669). They're nearly on pace to set a school record for yards allowed for the second straight season, and only Georgia Tech has failed to reach 400 yards of total offense against them.

The Yellow Jackets got 393.

"In order to compete with this club, we're going to have to play our best game," North Carolina coach John Bunting said of Miami. "They have a lot of weapons."

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This is nothing new for the Tar Heels, who have played the toughest schedule in the country according to the computer rankings of Jeff Sagarin, one of the components of the Bowl Championship Series standings.

Miami will be the fifth ranked opponent for North Carolina in eight games.

"They're pretty good, those teams we played," Bunting said. "The teams we have lost to have a combined record of 24-3."

The Hurricanes, in their first season in the ACC, are the only unbeaten team left in the conference. After traveling to N.C. State last week, they're making their first visit to Kenan Stadium since 1963.

A victory in this one would give Miami its fourth straight 7-0 start.

"You're not going to be able to compete with Miami week in and week out," Bunting said. "But this is this week."

The Wolfpack certainly had their chances last week, piling up 299 yards in the first half despite four turnovers. Other teams also have had success moving the ball against the Hurricanes, and North Carolina has the talent to do the same.

Darian Durant ranks third in the ACC in passing efficiency, and tailback Jacque Lewis averages more than 7 yards a carry. Durant left the game against the Utes with a sprained elbow, but Bunting believes he'll be ready to go Saturday night.

"I'm excited about playing them," Tar Heels running back Madison Hedge**** said. "If we can be as healthy as we can be, I think we can move the ball really well against them. There hasn't been too many teams this year that we've been shut down by."