... I'm going to tell you guys what your team needs to do to defeat us. I'm doing your coaches a big favor here, so you should tell them to read it, just kidding. I just thought I'd give my opinion, since there seems to be a lot of discussion about it in that fanshot about the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Like many of you have said, on defense you all need to stop Lattimore, and force Garcia to beat you. To stop Lattimore you all have to keep a lot of guys near the line of scrimmage early in the game, including defensive backs in the flat, 'cause Lattimore will run off tackle as well. Also, for the love of all that's good, do NOT waste time trying to strip the ball from him. He hasn't fumbled all season. If you try to strip the ball, he'll just keep pushing forward for extra yards. I've seen several teams make that mistake. Don't tackle him high, or with a shoulder, either. He's very good at bouncing off shoulder tackles, side stepping one arm tackles, and driving through high tackles. Your guys have to go low and grab his legs, or gang tackle him.
It'll only take two or three stuffs at the line for Spurrier to change his strategy. Once Lattimore starts to struggle, Spurrier will start calling more passes, but he'll also start calling zone read option running plays from the shotgun. Garcia will have the option of either handing it off to Lattimore, or faking the handoff and running it himself off tackle. THIS IS YOUR WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY. I can't emphasize this next part enough. This is where your guys can get a turnover, go up by two scores (assuming you all scored first), and force Carolina to go pass happy for the rest of the game. Garcia NEVER puts two hands on the ball when scrambling. Even though Garcia has fumbled several times this year, no team that we have played so far has tried to grab and strip the ball from Garcia, but it has always been there for the taking. Your defensive ends need to crash in on those zone read options, thereby forcing Garcia to keep it, and then strip it from him.
As far as pass defense, they have to double Alshon Jeffery. The other starter, Tori Gurley, is an incredible receiver himself, who has caught his fair share of tough passes deep downfield while getting nailed, but Jeffery is the best receiver in college football. Jeffery can catch balls one handed while the defensive back is pulling down on his jersey, and holding one of Jeffery's arms down to his side. I've seen it. Every team who has thought they could cover Jeffery one on one has failed miserably. He can catch balls in double coverage, but that's the only way you have a shot at slowing him down, other than stopping the play at the source by sacking Garcia which I will discuss shortly. Garcia throws a lot of those back shoulder fade passes, so if you don't have a guy on each side of Jeffery, he'll beat you either behind or infront of whatever single man you have on him. They have a lot of other receiving options, often going into four and five receiver sets, but your guys have to sell out on Jeffery, and hope a lesser receiver (Barnes, Moore, Sanders, etc.) drops the ball. Carolina will use their tight ends, and backs, in the passing game; so, just keep that in mind and don't let them get wide open.
To pressure Garcia in the passing game you all will likely need to blitz at least one guy often. Our offensive line has gone up against some outstanding defensive linemen, and held up very well. Where they have trouble is reading the blitz. Garcia typically makes two bad decisions early in the game, pressured or not. Most defenses have just dropped the picks, though. If you want to jump out to an early lead, do not drop the picks. After the initial mistakes, Garcia will typically play extremely well the rest of the game, unless he is pressured. He has a 154.14 QB rating, so he's no slouch. Blitz, or fail. The choice is yours.
Now, as for your offense, pass deep early and often. Carolina is near the top of the league in rush defense and sacks, but near the bottom in pass defense. How can they be near the top in sacks, but near the bottom in pass defense you may ask? That's how bad the pass defense is. Kentucky took the lead against us on a play late in the game. It was fourth down and a mile. Their QB got leveled by a defensive lineman a second after the snap, but got the pass off just in time for a touchdown to a wide open receiver who just happened to be the best player on their entire team. Do not waste much time trying to establish the run. Carolina goes two deep across the front six, rotating guys in and out, keeping them fresh, and they're all very good. Do not waste time throwing underneath junk like Florida tried to do. Our defense, across the board, is too fast for that to work. Everyone from the linemen to the defensive backs can play sideline to sideline very well. Sell out for the mid to deep pass. Have your receivers run some complex routes, put on double moves, etc. Our defensive backs are athletic, but not football smart. You will carve our secondary up, unless it's just one of those rare games where the secondary decides they want to do well. Keep the ball away from Antonio Allen at spur, and DJ Swearinger at safety. Target any other defensive back, and have a field day. Several teams have had the opportunity to keep up with us if their receivers had not dropped deep balls, or the passes had not been slightly off target. Clemson was an extreme example of this. The deep opportunities are there. If you want to keep up, don't waste them. I'd also encourage a lot of the hurry up offense, if your guys are capable of doing that. Like I said earlier, Carolina likes to substitute in on the front six. A hurry up offense would stop that, as well as confuse an already confused secondary.
Our special teams punt coverage is pretty good, and they hit hard. I would encourage your punt return man to call for a fair catch if he thinks it may even be a close decision. Our kick return coverage is not good. Get a speedy guy, and he'll run it back to the 30, at least. Our return game, both punt and kickoff, has struggled to get good yards. I'd encourage your kickoff coverage guys to go for the strip on Sherman. He's a very small guy who is almost no threat to break a tackle, and he hasn't returned much of anything for good yardage. I don't recall him fumbling, but you might as well at least take the shot at a turnover.
That's about it, I guess. If anyone has any questions about our team, you can ask and I'll try to answer; or, maybe some other Carolina fan will wander in and do it if I'm not.