Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
When: September 9th at 12:00 PM
Records: UNC 0-1, 0-0 in the ACC, Virginia Tech 1-0, 0-0 in the ACC
This past week marked the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Fran's fairly devasting rampage through North Carolina which left must of the eastern part of the state and Raleigh dealing with no power and down trees. One bright spot from Fran was the fact that we had plenty of warning it was on the way even if the aftermath was more than most people expected. Hurricanes with all their devastation and power are also predictable. You can see them coming and you can take action to prepare for them. If you live in a state where one might come blowing through or you deal with severe storms as part of a normal summer you maintain certain preparations such as flashlight batteries and clean gutters.
Now imagine the week before you know the hurricane is going to hit your house a good size line of thunderstorms come through with hail and high winds. During the course of these smaller storm you find out that the roof you thought was sound had about 26 huge leaks in it and that your windows are prone to be blown in by winds exceeding 40 mph. Needless to say you would be in deep trouble living in a house which was unable to endure a severe thunderstorm but in one week's time would be sitting in a hurricane.
This is the state of the UNC football house. During the course of the preseason we heard what great shape the house was in now. Sure there were questions about two or three small leaks in the roof or the fact the foundation might be a little weak on the back side of the house. There were some fairly major renovations undertaken to improve many aspects of the home which were supposedly completed in time and made the house strong and ready to endure more than last season's house did. Then Rutgers hit town and we found out the house was in far worse shape than we had been lead to believe. Now we have a Category 3 storm barreling up the coast and a lot more questions than answers about how the house will stand up to the beating.
Of course they say that the difference between the first week and the second week in college football is tremendous. And while that corallary is true most of the time I am also dealing with the simple logic that says if the UNC defense allowed Rutgers run hog wild on them then how in the world are they going to stop a Virginia Tech squad that is probably twice as good as the Scarlet Knights? Another tenet of college football says that speed, especially on defense is the key to ultimate success. In light of that how will the offense, which played well against Rutgers, deal with a faster and more powerful Hokie defensive front? In other words what possible expectation can we have that Saturday's game will result in anything short of an absolute thrashing by Virginia Tech?
When we look at this matchup on paper and based on what we saw against Rutgers we are tempted to lean towards certain scenarios. Yes, if the UNC defense from last week shows up then it will be a short game both in terms of the chance to win and the clock itself. If Joe Dailey finds his mobility limited by the quicker VT defenders and under pressure throws interceptions akin to the ones he threw against Rutgers then the Hokies will roll big. And if Ronnie McGill and Barrington Edwards simply cannot find the legs and endurance to provide a substantial running game then the UNC offense will sputter miserably. Then again I have to have some hope that the stuff you cannot find on paper will make a huge difference here.
We can only hope that the problem of missed assignments and the failure of certain defenders to step up has been worked out this week. If the UNC defense can give the Hokie run pause VT will have to rely more on the pass which is somewhat questionable. There is hope Joe Dailey puts in a solid performance from the decisionmaking end and that the offensive line can give him the protection he needs to get off good passes and avoid costly interceptions. If that happens and the O-line can push the VT defensive front then it should open up some room for McGill and Edwards to run. A balanced offense is the best way to keep an opposing defense off their game.
And we can also hope that some of those mysterious intangibles and a compilation of strange occurrences will keep the door ajar for a UNC team to somehow seize momentum and grab a hard fought upset to cancel out the bad taste last week. Yes, on paper it stinks and the memory of Ray Rice's 201 yards does not give this Tar Heel Fan much confidence that UNC can get it done. Then again if enough can go right and UNC can stay close the chances of success, especially at home, increase significantly.
So intellectual honesty and hard facts beg me to call this a 31-10 Hokies' win with VT scoring two late touchdowns to build on a 17-10 third quarter lead.
Then again most of the time when hurricanes come they turn out to be far less damaging than the forecasters predict. That is all we can hope for here.