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UNC vs. Virginia Tech: Game Preview

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Virginia Tech Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

UNC and Virginia Tech are both looking to get some mojo going after humbling losses last week. The Tar Heels were roughed up defensively by an impotent Irish attack made turgid by Carolina’s inability to stop either the run or pass. The Hokies lost to West Virginia on the back of some truly offensive offense. The headline for Saturday afternoon’s kick-off is chillingly similar to last week — a team with a struggling offense comes to Kenan looking to right the ship.

Notre Dame’s offense was bad, but they had the pieces to get right. Virginia Tech’s offense is bad, and hopefully they do not have the wherewithal to harm Carolina... at least not enough to win. A lot of that will have to do with the weather. With Hurricane Ian heading up through Florida, it’s unknown if Chapel Hill will get dumped with rain and wind at 3:30pm, Saturday October 1st. If it’s pleasant enough, Drake Maye and Carolina’s offense should be able to punish the Hokies worse than the Mountaineers did. If it’s a deluge, thoughts of 2016’s nightmare match-up with Virginia Tech will rear their ugly head.

Virginia Tech’s Thursday night loss to West Virginia was a pitiful performance on offense. The Hokies rushed for just 35 yards and quarterback Grant Wells threw 16/35 for 193 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception that was returned for a touchdown.

God, Carolina could use one of those.

Wells’ performance against the Mountaineers was actually a marked improvement since his season-opening bed-wetter against Old Dominion, when he threw for 197 yards, 1 touchdown and four picks. With that many turnovers (VaTech also had a fumble) it’s a minor miracle the Hokies only lost by 3. Keshawn King rushed for 111 yards against the Monarchs, but his output has incrementally declined since, rushing for 64 yards against Boston College, then only 4 yards against WVU. But since he has shown ability before, expect him to show it again against the Tar Heels. Option B is senior Jalen Holston, but he has been fairly pedestrian, running for 36 ypg on about 11 apg.

Virginia Tech’s defense has been like a weak schoolyard bully—capable of beating up on a suddenly hapless Boston College and winless Maine, but humbled by ODU and WVU. And while their stats have been impressive—the Hokies have only given up 680 yards and two touchdowns through the air so far this season—they haven’t seen a passing attack like Phil Longo’s. Now, they may not have to see that air attack if the weather is bad, so Chris Marve is probably lighting a candle every night this week hoping for just enough rain to ruin Drake Maye’s grip, but not enough to cancel the game.

That sweet spot will be where Virginia Tech’s best chance of winning lies. If the Hokies can run the ball better than UNC, a concern Mack Brown shared during his Tuesday press conference, and bad weather protects them from Carolina’s aerial attack, Virginia Tech is perfectly capable of grabbing an upset victory. If UNC’s defense can focus on defending just the run, then maybe... just maaaaybe they can crawl out of the pit they’re mired in to get Carolina back on track. For all of the doom and gloom that’s hanging over the program right now, the Heels are still 3-1 and 0-0 in conference play. I am still optimistic that the defense can improve and that the offense will have enough juice to show Virginia Tech something they haven’t seen all season... a good offense.

Prediction: UNC 42, Virginia Tech 28