After back-to-back wins against Miami and Rhode Island, Virginia Tech hosts North Carolina for their Homecoming game in front of a sold out Lane Stadium. While the festivities bring excitement, the game brings a lot of pressure with a loss almost certainly ending the Coastal hopes for the loser, especially if the Hokies were to suffer a third ACC loss.
With that said, here are our picks for this important Coastal showdown between Virginia Tech and North Carolina plus check out our other pregame coverage below.
- Keys to the Game (By Mike McDaniel)
- Key Matchups (By Grant Atkinson)
- The Opposing 5 UNC Q&A With Brant Wilkerson-New
- Virginia Tech Hosting Talented Group of Recruits (By Tim Thomas)
After showing hope of a midseason revitalization in the past two victories with Hendon Hooker at QB, Virginia Tech's improvement faces its toughest test to date against a much-improved North Carolina that is considered a Coastal frontrunner at the moment. Meanwhile, North Carolina has had some of their best games in losses, but the question is are they good as they've looked in those losses or do they lack the instinct to go close out bigger games.
On paper, North Carolina looks like the favorite based on what we've seen and the fact that UNC has gone against one of the top 10-15 schedules in the country with Sagarin ranking it 8th recently. Meanwhile, the Hokies have looked unimpressive against a relatively weak schedule that has included 2 FCS foes, an Old Dominion team that is one of the worst in FBS, and a Boston College team that lost at home to Kansas.
However, this is a UNC team that is bringing a true freshman QB into what will be the most hostile environment he has faced by far in his short career. Additionally, UNC has had an issue containing mobile QBs giving up the most rushing yards to QBs among all ACC teams. Additionally, the secondary for UNC has multiple injuries and with Damon Hazelton and VT's talented TEs finding their rhythm, the pieces are there for VT's passing game to take off.
This should be an intense game that could go either way, but the matchup sets up well for Hendon Hooker while Sam Howell will be tested in a tough environment for the first time in his career. This game will be a shootout, but the Hokies will be able to outscore the Tar Heels on their way to an important victory to keep their Coastal hopes alive.
Pick: Virginia Tech 35, North Carolina 31
Some people are calling this the biggest game of the season for the Hokies, and I am right by their side on this one. North Carolina will not be the most grueling opponent Virginia Tech will face this season or the biggest rivalry game on the schedule either.
Instead, this game will define what direction the program is going throughout the rest of the season.
A win and the Hokies keep themselves in ACC Coastal contention with a great opportunity to keep the bowl streak alive for another season. With a loss, the Hokies are looking at an uphill battle to get to seven wins this season for a bowl game, and lose all momentum gained over the last two performances.
For Virginia Tech, the focus in this game will be if they are able to keep the offensive surge that they have shown in recent game. There were some games at the beginning of the season where the Hokies did not have the offensive production to break away from their opponents, and kept teams like Furman and Old Dominion in the game much longer than it had to be. If the offense comes out strong and able to break away from the Tar Heels early, the Hokies should be in the driver’s seat.
For North Carolina, the focus will be on the play of freshman quarterback Sam Howell. The freshman quarterback has put up impressive numbers for the Tar Heels this season with a 15-3 TD-INT ratio and currently at 1544 passing yards. This will be the freshman’s first big ACC road matchup in his career and it will be challenging to see how Howell comes out and performs for North Carolina in a crucial intra-conference matchup.
It’s Homecoming with a sold out crowd in Blacksburg, so expect Lane Stadium to be crazy when Saturday rolls around. For the Hokies, a victory is much needed with this game providing VT's most important test of the season to date. I believe the Hokies will pull it out and carry the momentum from previous victories against Miami and Rhode Island.