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The Daily Tar Heel

James Madison brings gaudy rushing attack to UNC

The North Carolina football team opens at home this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. when James Madison comes to Kenan Stadium.

UNC (1-1) is a heavy favorite in this matchup between a Power 5 school and a football championship subdivision (FCS) school.

But the Dukes (2-0) have won both of its games this season — and have done so by an average of 54 points per game. Here’s a quick preview of James Madison before Saturday’s contest.

How do they play?

The Dukes like to run the ball and score points. Through two games, James Madison has averaged 405 yards on the ground and 68 points — albeit against considerably weaker competition.

The Tar Heels should expect a run-heavy offense from the Dukes at first, but nobody has seen how James Madison will play when the team is losing.

It’s easy to run the ball when a team is up by 30, but it’s a little bit tougher when it is losing by 30.

Who stands out?

James Madison running backs Cardon Johnson and Trai Sharp have jumped out to a fast start in 2016. Johnson has already gained 225 yards on the ground this season, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. He’s no Nick Chubb, but he can definitely carry the rock.

Sharp might be a familiar face to some UNC students — he played at Carrboro High School, just down the road from Chapel Hill, and led the Jaguars to a 15-1 record in 2012.

The sophomore is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and could play well in what is somewhat of a homecoming game.

What is their weakness?

In this game, the talent gap between the two teams is enormous. James Madison has done well populating its roster with Division-I transfers and talents — like South Carolina transfer Connor Mitch — and it’s a big reason why the Dukes are ranked No. 8 in the FCS Coaches Poll this year after going 9-3 last season.

However, North Carolina has more talent and skill at virtually every position on the depth chart -— and that should be the difference on Saturday.

Why could they win?

FCS teams have given scares to more talented teams a few times already this season, but it’s unlikely James Madison will follow suit when the team plays UNC on Saturday.

North Carolina played two FCS teams a season ago and won easily both on both occasions — the first a 53-14 win against North Carolina A&T and the next a 41-14 win over Delaware two weeks later.

Coach Larry Fedora’s up-tempo offense is too explosive for most FCS teams to handle.

The recipe for James Madison to win on Saturday is to play slow, get lucky in the turnover battle and hope North Carolina makes mistakes.

@bauman_john

sports@dailytarheel.com

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