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The Daily Tar Heel

Texas-Sized Challenge Awaits UNC

Game and time:

Site: Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium/Jamail Field.

TV/radio: ABC will televise the game nationally. The Tar Heel Sports Network will provide live radio coverage; its flagship station is WCHL 1360 AM.

Records: North Carolina 0-2. Texas 1-0.

Series: Texas leads 4-3.

Personnel update: North Carolina -- WR Brandon Russell (sprained left medial collateral ligament) is out, OL Jupiter Wilson (right calf bruise) is probable. Texas -- None reported.

Key matchup: Guts vs. glory.

Texas has a 108-year glory-rich history that includes three national championships, a Big 12 championship and 25 SWC titles.

North Carolina got embarrassed at Maryland last week and some of its best history came when Mack Brown roamed the sidelines for the Tar Heels rather than the No. 5 Longhorns.

UNC's players will have to dig deep within themselves and rely on grit to have a prayer in this game because not much else is working for the team at this point.

"We're not where we want to be after two games, period," UNC coach John Bunting said. "We're not where we want to be. What are we going to do about it? We're going to try to get better. We're going to work hard in practice."

A major area of concern needing work is the offensive line. The Tar Heels' offense has been stagnant thus far. Quarterback Ronald Curry isn't getting the protection he needs in the pocket, and the running backs are getting any breathing room to move the ball.

UNC mustered 10 first downs in its 23-7 loss at Maryland. Offenses live and die with their lines, and this one, averaging 288 pounds, will definitely have its work cut out for it Saturday.

The Longhorns return eight starters from a 2000 defense that ranked seventh nationally in total defense (278.3 yards) and first in pass efficiency (88.3 rating).

"Right now, we're struggling, and everybody knows it," Bunting said. "I could come up here and beat on the offensive line over and over and over again. That does no good. We are what we are. We've got to continue to improve there. By the same token, our big-play players have got to make big plays."

Final analysis/prediction: The fact of the matter is that Texas' big-play players are plentiful and will make plays.

Although Brown said he was somewhat disappointed in the team's offensive consistency, the Longhorns racked up 399 yards of offense in its 41-7 win against New Mexico State.

"We didn't run but about three plays," Brown said. "We didn't use a lot of our offense, but we got a lot of work on those three. So they should be better next week."

Texas has so many weapons, Brown doesn't quite know what to do with them all yet. At quarterback he's got junior Chris Simms, named the starter in the preseason, and Major Applewhite, who owns school career records in completions, yards, 300-yard games and TD passes.

Catching those passes are sophomore All-America candidates Roy Williams and B.J. Johnson among others. Nine Longhorns caught a pass last week.

"Obviously, I think they're better than Oklahoma," UNC cornerback Errol Hood said. "They're taller than Oklahoma and more physical. We just have to concentrate more and go out and be more aware of where the receivers are at on the field, their top players and who they like to throw to the most."

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Running backs Cedric Benson (15 carries, 64 yards), Ivan Williams (15 for 64) and Victory Ike (14 for 53) split time last Saturday to help Brown evaluate the position.

With those performances, what Brown figured out was he has no shortage of talent nor a running game.

Defending the run will be even more difficult for the Tar Heels, who allowed 192 rushing yards to the Terrapins, because of Brown's massive offensive line. They're averaging 319 pounds and could create matchup problems for North Carolina's defensive line.

Bunting said Tuesday he would considering moving defensive end Julius Peppers because Simms is a lefty. If Peppers switches sides, he'd go up against preseason All-American Mike Williams, a 6-foot-6, 345-pound right tackle. Peppers, no lightweight at 6-6, 285 pounds, has been getting sacks so far this season, but Williams has allowed just one sack in 16 starts.

Texas can do it all, and it will against North Carolina. There's no way the Longhorns allow Brown's former team to ruin their very realistic national title aspirations.

The only question will be how much Brown's willing to run up the score on old friends.

Texas 48, North Carolina 9.

-- Compiled by Mike Ogle