Despite some lackluster play, Miami is still hoping to reach the ACC championship game.
Its next opponent has had to overcome a lot more than on-the-field issues to remain very much in the hunt.
The No. 25 Hurricanes look to avoid a fourth straight loss to North Carolina when they host the resurgent Tar Heels on Saturday.
After a one-week absence, Miami (4-2, 2-1) returned to the rankings following a 28-13 win at Duke last Saturday. Bouncing back from a 45-17 loss to then-No. 23 Florida State the previous week, the Hurricanes forced seven turnovers and outgained the Blue Devils 448-292 while rushing for a season-high 224 yards.
Jacory Harris threw for 224 yards and one touchdown, and the junior didn't throw an interception for only the second time this season. Harris is tied for second in the conference with nine interceptions.
Miami now faces a rejuvenated North Carolina squad which has won four straight despite playing under the scrutiny of two NCAA investigations. Both the Hurricanes and Tar Heels (4-2, 2-1) are one game behind Virginia Tech for first place in the ACC's Coastal Division, and both host the Hokies next month.
"Got to steadily improve and get better as we keep going into the Coastal Division, to try to reach our goal at the end of the day," Miami coach Randy Shannon said.
Last week's victory was far from impressive, especially considering Duke has the conference's worst record, but it provided a boost for the Hurricanes after they were embarrassed by the rival Seminoles.
"This is college football. Anytime you get a win, you've got to run with it," cornerback Ryan Hill said. "There were some things that we've got to clean up and obviously we're going to go back, look at film and get some things cleaned up. We're not where we want to be right now as a team, so we'll go back to practice and keep pushing."
Hill, who has three interceptions this year, leads a Miami defense giving up an average of 19.7 points and ranks fourth in the Football Bowl Subdivision in passing yards allowed at 150.7 per game.
North Carolina's T.J. Yates is third in the ACC with 1,495 yards passing, including 325 last Saturday in a 44-10 victory at Virginia. He threw for three touchdowns as the Tar Heels topped 40 points for the second time in three games and recorded a season-high 479 yards of offense.
Ranked 18th when the season began, North Carolina received votes in this week's AP poll, but it was dealt another significant blow over the weekend. Tight end Zack Pianalto, leading the team with 30 catches for 311 yards and one TD, will miss the season after breaking his leg against the Cavaliers.
"We've got to find a way to try and manufacture catches and yards from somebody else," coach Butch Davis said. "It certainly is a loss for his football team."
Davis and the Tar Heels already were thin at receiver with Greg Little having been dismissed from the team because of NCAA violations. Davis also faces the possibility of being without linebacker Quan Sturdivant (hamstring) and cornerback LeCount Fantroy (shoulder).
"The only chance we have on Saturday is to prepare well and block out some of the distractions," Davis said. "I'm very proud of the effort these kids have made. ... You never know when your opportunity is going to be. Some guys thought they were going to redshirt, well that plan is out the window. You've got to step up, you've got to be ready to play and help us win."
Little had a touchdown catch in North Carolina's 33-24 home win over Miami last season when the Hurricanes were ranked 12th. The Tar Heels picked off four of Harris' passes en route to a third straight win over Miami -- their longest win streak in the 13-game history of this series.
"They own us until we prove otherwise," Hurricanes linebacker Sean Spence said.