The Tar Heels stormed into Tallahassee last Saturday and stole a win with Nick Weiler’s 54-yard game winning field goal. Since then, UNC football has been getting a lot of national attention. The national media started to realize how ridiculously good Mitch Trubisky has been, along with his favorite target Ryan Switzer. Also, Carolina jumped to #17 in the rankings, and hope to never look back.
With seven games left in the regular season, all of UNC’s goals are still ahead of them. Aside from Miami in two weeks, Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech will likely be one of the most threatening to those goals out of the seven games left. The Hokies come into Chapel Hill 3-1, fresh off a beat down of ECU at home. Some quick facts about VT:
- The Hokies are 20-11 all time against Carolina, with their longest win streak coming from 2004-2008. They have also won nine out of the last 12 since joining the ACC.
- Their biggest margin of victory this season was a 49-0 rout of Boston College, and their only loss was was to then #17 Tennessee in Bristol 45-24.
- The Hokies are averaging over 250 yards of offense this season, ranked 51st in the country.
- Junior quarterback Jerod Evans has 13 touchdowns through four games, including four last weekend against ECU.
- The Virginia Tech defense is ranked 5th in the nation in terms of total yards allowed (1057 over 4 games.)
Without further ado, let’s break down the Hokies before Saturday’s matchup in Chapel Hill.
The VT offense primarily revolves around junior quarterback Jerod Evans. He has passed for 970 yards this season, and again, an impressive 13 touchdowns. He is also an effective rusher, able to escape a collapsing pocket and get down field. For some perspective, Evans is only three yards shy of his leading rusher Travon McMillan. Jerod Evans can do it all, and will versus the Heels. Hopefully we don't see anything like this 55-yard run for a touchdown last weekend. I have a feeling that UNC might be able to contain him a little better than the Pirates did, but his evasiveness and quickness is worth noting.
The UNC secondary might want to keep an eye on #1 Isaiah Ford. He is Virginia Tech’s leading receiver with 376 yards. He snagged an impressive touchdown last week on an under-thrown ball by Evans, and also a catch for 45 yards. VT has a pretty well-balanced offense, but definitely more pass heavy with 13-20 of their touchdowns coming through the air.
The Hokies have one of the nation’s best defenses, especially against the pass. They've given up only 603 total pass yards, with an average of 150 per game. In a loss to now #9 Tennessee, VT allowed 91 yards out of the hand of Joshua Dobbs. Now, when he did get within striking distance, Dobbs threw three touchdowns. You’ve heard of a “bend don't break” defense? The Hokies are looked more like a “break don't bend” during that game.
Regardless, Bud Foster has been the defensive coordinator for Virginia Tech since 1996. He has historically put together solid defenses, and it looks like they are on the right track again this year. He’ll be looking to put some pressure on Mitch Trubisky, and disrupt the up-tempo offense.
A 87-yard punt return for a touchdown, a blocked punt, and a blocked field goal. All of those things happened for the Hokies on special teams last weekend. Again, the ECU pirates are clearly not the strongest on special teams. However that game does especially show you the potential for returner Greg Stroman. The Heels will need to take a little bit extra care so that he doesn't get a quick one off of a punt or kick off.
Saturday’s game should be an interesting one for multiple reasons. It is like to be extremely rainy from Hurricane Matthew. We’ll have to see how that affects both teams. A now ranked Virginia Tech would love to come to Kenan Stadium and disrupt Carolina’s momentum, as well as avenge last year’s 30-27 loss in overtime. The Heels will want to continue to add to their resume with wins against good teams.
My prediction: UNC 35 - VT 28
Check out the full highlights from last week’s game against ECU here