Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
When: Saturday, November 13, 3:30 PM
TV: ABC Regional
Records: UNC 6-3, 3-2 ACC; VT 7-2, 5-0
The two hottest teams in the ACC meet Saturday in Chapel Hill with Coastal Division title aspirations on the line.
Virginia Tech and UNC both started the season 0-2 with close losses and have performed admirably since then. The Hokies have gone 7-0 and have assumed their normal place atop the ACC standings, while the Heels have fought through injuries and suspensions to post a 6-1 mark over the same time frame.
The Hokies, to channel Denny Green, are who we thought they were. Since opening 2010 with a close loss against #3 Boise State and a monumental loss to FBS James Madison, the Hokies have developed a reputation as comeback kids, nearly erasing a huge Boise lead in the opener before coming up short, then coming from behind in the second half or 4th quarter in big wins over East Carolina, NC State, and last week against Georgia Tech. As per usual, they ride both the arm and legs of multi-dimensional quarterback Tyrod Taylor while grinding it out on the ground on offense, as VT ranks as the 18th-best rushing team in the country. Defensively Virginia Tech only returned four starters but has played well enough to keep the Hokies undefeated in ACC play and ranked again in the national polls.
Taylor is the presumptive leader for ACC player-of-the-year honors but is being seriously challenged for that honor by UNC quarterback T.J. Yates. Yates is coming off the heels of a record-setting 400+ yard passing day last week against Florida State and has two games this season where he has passed for over 400 yards. Yates needs only 485 yards to surpass Darian Durant as Carolina's all-time passing yardage leader, and only nine completions to pass Durant as UNC's all-time best in that category as well.
Yates will need to be that good again against a VT's pass defense that is ranked in the top-20 nationally. In addition, there is the question of what UNC will do at running back given the season-ending injury to Johnny White and Shaun Draughn's nagging ankle injury. Draughn is listed as questionable on the injury report, but Anthony Elzy appears to be at full speed and Hunter Chuck Norris Furr has been taking reps in practice this week so maybe the Ryan Houston Redshirt Watch can be lowered to Defcon 3.
Injuries continue to be a concern on defense as well with defensive end Tim Jackson on the doubtful list and end Linwan Euwell and cornerback Tre Boston listed as questionable. The good news is that the linebacking corps appears to be back at full speed and maybe another week of practice will have knocked some of the rust off for Kendric Burney, as the defensive backfield (with the exception of Boston) is as complete as it has been all season.
Carolina turned its season last year with a come-from-behind win over the Hokies in Blacksburg after giving up a winnable game against Florida State and salvaged a solid finish in 2009. This year Virginia Tech can clinch at least a share of the Coastal Division with a win while UNC needs to defeat the Hokies to keep their own divisional hopes alive. Here's to keeping hope alive.
UNC 31, VT 27