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UNC vs Virginia Tech: Three Things to Watch

The last two games against the Hokies have not been pretty. Can UNC reverse that trend?

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Miami Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Week seven of the college football season is upon us. North Carolina, however, will only be playing in their fifth game of the season. It will only be the second time they’ve played at home when they welcome Virginia Tech to Kenan Memorial. Yes, the same Virginia Tech team who has scored 93 points in the last two meetings between the schools. It’s safe to say these two schools do not get along.

The good news? North Carolina is undefeated at home in 2018.

What else is there to watch for this Saturday!?

Cade Fortin Time?

Until Cade Fortin is named the starting quarterback, this needs to be a permanent part of this weekly feature. With the news that Chazz Surratt will miss the rest of the year with a wrist injury, the Heels now have just three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster: Nathan Elliott, Cade Fortin, and Jace Ruder. That’s hardly a murderer’s row of talent.

Whether anyone on the coaching staff will admit it, this season is fast approaching “wait ‘till next year” levels of ineptitude on the field. Some will disagree, but the reality of the situation is that it’s time to ask a centuries-old question that not even the most genius of football minds have a definite answer for. Do you play the quarterback that gives you the best chance to win now? Or, do you play the quarterback who will likely be your starter next season and let him develop? Is that player the same person?

Whether or not Fedora is here next season, it’s clear that Elliott is not the answer for the future. Based on the 1-3 record, it’s hard to even argue that he is the answer this season. With Surratt’s running ability now officially removed from the roster, it’s time to play the guy who can actually throw the ball like a Division-I quarterback. I’ll throw all my weight behind Fortin at this point in the season and live with the results.

Is running back still a position?

As a UNC fan, it’s hard to know if the running back is still a position in modern football. Looking at the rushing totals, one would think the Heels don’t have any talent in the backfield. They have only amassed 713 rushing yards while averaging 35.75 carries per game. Both are good for 12th best in the ACC. Their 178.25 yards per game ranks 11th in the ACC.

Yet, they are averaging 4.99 yards per carry, which jumps up to 5th in the conference. The triumvirate of Antonio Williams, Jordon Brown, and Michael Carter are averaging a combined 5.78 yards per carry. I am not a mathematician, but I can do the four basic functions. No matter how I add, subtract, divide, or multiply UNC’s offensive numbers, I reach the same conclusion.

The best players on UNC’s roster are not getting enough touches.

Some of this has been dictated by constantly trailing by multiple scores – often due to turnovers by the quarterbacks. Elliott and Surratt have combined for seven interceptions and two fumbles. Regardless, there is no way in hell UNC should be averaging less than 36 rushing attempts per game.

Note: In the first quarter against Miami, Michael Carter carried the ball four times for 81 yards. He had 3 carries the rest of the game. That should be illegal in all 50 states, plus Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam.

For other articles exploring this topic, check out some of our previous anlysis.

Tar Heel Hangover: Running to the second half

A plea for UNC to run the triple option

Tar Heel Hangover: Blown away by the Hurricanes

UNC’s Secondary

Virginia Tech has the second-best passing offense in the ACC. North Carolina, surprisingly, has the third-best passing defense. They have allowed just a 56.4% completion rate and conceded just five touchdowns through the air. They have also held opponents to a pedestrian 177 passing yards per game. Can UNC employ an effective no-fly zone against the Hokies?

To be fair, some of that is skewed. UNC’s run defense is so bad that throwing against them has hardly been necessary. That is evidenced by the meager 27.5 passing attempts per game they line up against –the fourth fewest attempts per game in the conference.

However, the Hokies’ run game isn’t of the same caliber since quarterback Josh Jackson was sidelined with a broken ankle. Duke held Virginia Tech to 81 yards on 40 carries, a 1.98 ypc average. They were slightly better against Notre Dame in a 45-23 loss. In South Bend they gained 132 yards on 43 carries for 4.0 ypc average. Good, but not overwhelming.

Expect the UNC secondary to get tested early and often on Saturday night.