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What to Expect Thursday in Blacksburg

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I tried yesterday to write about the current state of ACC football, but two sentences in I lost all interest. Frankly, ACC Roulette is a lot more interesting when UNC is in the thick of things. At two games behind Duke in the conference standings, I can't really bring myself to care about the bigger picture. I don't want to do the math on the Heels' ever-dwindling bowl hopes. I can only hold two thoughts in my head right now – Virginia Tech is on Thursday, and basketball season starts in thirteen days.

So, Virginia Tech. UNC's defense has performed particularly well against the Hokies in recent years, in no small part because they contained Tyrod Taylor's rushing, holding him to near-season lows on the ground, and not allowing anything more than an average performance in the air, either. But this season Taylor has taken himself out of the running, so to speak, cutting back on his scrambling in favor of traditional, pocket passing. And for the most part it's worked, as the offense is averaging a full yard and a half more per play than in the three previous years, primarily on the backs of Ryan Williams and cohorts rushing. The offense is as successful as Florida State's, but more run-oriented, and I can still see UNC holding them to a touchdown and a couple of field goals.

Of course, the Carolina defense could hold the Hokies scoreless and still lose by twenty, as UNC's less than precise offense has to face Tech's defense. Virginia Tech has forced six Carolina turnovers in their last two meetings, and that was when the Heels had an offensive line stronger than tissue paper. I had put aside this excellent analysis of their defense, and it's worth a read, but it doesn't really apply to Thursday's game. Almost every defense has stopped UNC without breaking a sweat, and I don't expect this game to be any different.

Let's face it. This game will be full of indignities, up to and including the opening charge on the field. But it's not like it'll be on national TV or anything.