If North Carolina defeats Louisville on Saturday afternoon, it will have done so without perhaps its top offensive weapons.
A week after sitting out his team's loss to Wake Forest because of an injury, Tar Heel sophomore running back Giovanni Bernard will be back home in Chapel Hill when his team takes the field inside Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. A freshman All-American and first team All-ACC performer in 2011, Bernard carried 25 times for 109 yards and a touchdown in Carolina's win over Louisville last season.
Likely getting the start in Bernard's absence will be junior A.J. Blue. Despite having just over 200 career yards to his name heading into last week, Blue rushed for 106 yards in the loss to the Demon Deacons. Redshirt freshman Romar Morris, who gained 70 yards on 14 carries last week, will also see his fair share of touches.
There's no question that Blue and Morris are fully capable of keeping UNC's ground attack going, but where the Tar Heels will really miss Bernard is as a receiver and a return man. Bernard, who returned a punt 70 yards for a touchdown in the season-opener against Elon, caught 45 passes last season. Blue and Morris have just four career receptions between them.
Larry Fedora will also be without the services of senior wide receiver Jheranie Boyd on Saturday, who also did not make the trip because of a foot injury. Boyd, a starter, caught one pass in each of Carolina's first two games. His catch against Elon was a 35-yard touchdown reception. He will likely be replaced in the starting lineup by Mark McNeil, a former walk-on who also plays lacrosse.
Walk-on track star Roy Smith will likely handle return duties with Bernard unable to go. Smith was a co-MVP with Teddy Bridgewater at the National 7-on-7 passing tournament in 2010.