A look at how UNC matches up with the Virginia Tech Hokies.
|North Carolina||Virginia Tech|
|AP Poll Rank||N/R||N/R|
|Points Per Game||40.8||29.8|
|Total Offense Per Game||438.5||421.4|
|Total Offense Per Play||5.5||5.4|
|Rushing Per Game||142.0||173.9|
|Rushing Per Att||3.8||4.5|
|Passing Per Game||296.5||247.6|
|Passing Per Att||7.1||6.4|
|3rd Down Conv.||42.2%||51.1%|
|4th Down Conv.||80.0%||0.0%|
|Red Zone Conv.||94.4%||90.0%|
|Points Allowed Per Game||44.0||20.4|
|Total Defense Per Game||543.0||325.6|
|Total Defense Per Play||6.6||5.2|
|Rushing Per Game||190.0||105.6|
|Rushing Per Att||4.6||3.3|
|Passing Per Game||353.0||220.0|
|Passing Per Att||8.7||7.3|
|Tackles for Loss||27.0||41.0|
|3rd Down Conv.||52.4%||25.7%|
|4th Down Conv.||N/A||40.0%|
|Red Zone Conv.||80.0%||68.4%|
The numbers characterize this game as an interesting match-up because there is some give and take when you put them side-by-side. On one hand, Virginia Tech's offense isn't the prettiest thing in the world to look at. The Hokies excel at running the football but that part of the offense took a hit with the loss of Shai McKenzie, the team's second leading rusher. The pass offense is fairly average with a startling the Hokies having thrown an alarming ten interceptions in one game. Balance this offense against a Tar Heel defense that has its share of issues stopping people but at the same time is 11th nationally in interceptions. If UNC's penchant for poaching passes lines up with the Hokies' continuing the trend of throwing to the wrong team, the Heels defense might just get by.
On the flip side, the Hokie defense is going to make Larry Fedora's desire for the offense to compensate for the defense should things go south for a third straight game. The Hokies are holding teams to 105 yards per game and 3.28 yards per carry. UNC's rushing offense has been fairly muted until the Clemson game when freshman Elijah Hood had 71 yards on 13 carries which was good for a 5.5 ypc average. However, Fedora didn't commit to the continued use of Hood in his media appearances since that game meaning the coaching staff is still like to go running back by committee again. Against the pass, the Hokies certainly have the personnel to make life difficult and outside of the 427 passing yards surrendered to ECU, opposing teams have been kept in check for the most part with no other team going over 220 yards versus the Hokies. As is always the case with Bud Foster's defense, UNC will be challenged to put together consistent drives to both score points and help the defense.
Speaking of which, the numbers for third down conversions in this game do not favor the Heels. UNC is currently giving up third down conversions at a rate of 52.4% which is 125th nationally. Virginia Tech is 13th overall in converting third downs with a 51.1% success rate. This is a classic case of an extreme weakness up against an area of great strength. Of the 84 third down plays Virginia Tech has run, 64 of them have been pass plays with a 48% success rate. Of the 20 rushing plays on third down, the Hokies have converted 11 of those. Looking at those pesky 3rd and long situations(7 or more yards) Virginia Tech has converted 44% of the pass plays attempted at that distance and 3-of-6 on rushing plays. As Paul noted earlier this week, UNC's ability to get the defense off the field is extremely important. It seems to be a recurring theme spanning multiple seasons and in this game could be a fatal flaw.