The UNC football program welcomes Pitt to Chapel Hill for a key matchup in the ACC Coastal Division this weekend.
The Tar Heels hold a two-game lead over Georgia Tech and Duke, with Pitt lurking right behind at 1-2 in the conference.
UNC sits at 6-1 on the season while Pitt is just 4-3 this year. While the Tar Heels hold the overall series lead 10-5, Pitt has won the last two games. Each of the last 10 meetings have been decided by one score.
North Carolina is coming off of a bye week and look to use this game as the second stepping stone to finish off its season the right way.
Here are the offensive keys to the game for North Carolina against Pitt.
Continue to score touchdowns in the red zone
CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA – NOVEMBER 20: James Wells #56 and John Beckley #46 of the Wofford Terriers stop Drake Maye #10 of the North Carolina Tar Heels short of the goal line during the second half of their game at Kenan Memorial Stadium on November 20, 2021 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The Tar Heels won 34-14. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
North Carolina has been tremendous inside the red zone at converting and making sure the points come the way of a touchdown and not a field goal.
So far on the season, the Tar Heels have converted 24-of-30 red zone trips into touchdowns.
Pitt’s defense has done a good job at keeping high-powered offenses in check for the majority of games and limiting the touchdown rate. That will be a key for that unit again with UNC’s ability to score.
The Tar Heels have typically been able to overcome any defensive pressure in the red zone and that will be something they need to do once again.
Utilize Drake Maye's running ability
Sep 24, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) prepares to hand the ball off to running back Caleb Hood (4) in the first half at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
The Tar Heels have done a great job maintaining a balanced attack on offense this season, whether it’s running the ball or passing.
On the season, despite being a terrific and very effective passing team, UNC actually has more rushing attempts overall and a large reason for that is the effectiveness on the ground from Drake Maye.
Maye actually leads the team in rushing attempts, but a lot do come from broken down plays and him utilizing his scrambling ability. One part of the offense that I think should be used more often is a quarterback draw or quarterback option.
The North Carolina offensive line has been inconsistent all season but if this offense can still utilize the feet of Maye to their advantage with designed play calls, it could open up even more in the overall running back and even the passing game.
Convert on third down
PITTSBURGH, PA – NOVEMBER 11: Josh Downs #11 of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts after making a catch for a first down in the second half against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Heinz Field on November 11, 2021 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
This could be the critical key to the matchup as both the UNC offense and the Pitt defense are among the ACC’s best in third down situations.
The Tar Heels don’t see third down plays all that often but when they do, typically convert — leading the ACC with a 51.6 percent conversation rate. Typically, it’s a big play that happens as well.
For Pitt, it needs to be able to lean on its strength and get off the field on third downs, which could be the only way it slows down the UNC offense.
On the season, Pitt is only in the middle of the pack in the league at getting teams to third downs, but when it does, that unit is holding opponents to just a 33.3 percent conversion rate.
Target Antoine Green down field
Sep 24, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Antoine Green (3) attempts to catch the ball as Notre Dame Fighting Irish cornerback Cam Hart (5) defends in the second quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
If here is one glaring weakness in Pitts defense it is the consistent big plays down field that it gives up. While that unit doesn’t allow for a ton of explosive play down the field, there are numerous opportunities if the Tar Heels stay patient.
Antoine Green is someone who can change the game in one play and there seems to be a sometimes lack of consistency to get him the ball. On the season, Green has just 13 catches in four games but has totaled 384 yards.
Though he doesn’t qualify due to games played, his yards per catch of 29.5 would be five yards more per catch than the current leader in the country.
With the effectiveness of Josh Downs and the tight end trio in the middle parts of the field, trying to look for more plays down the field to Green should be something that is available more often than being completed now.