After a tough home loss to playoff contender Notre Dame, Virginia Tech heads on the road looking to improve to 3-0 in the ACC against a North Carolina team playing in its biggest game of their season as they look to find any sort of momentum to make a run at a bowl game.
With that said, here are our picks for the Hokies and Tar Heels.
North Carolina is rolling out the red carpet for their biggest home game of the season (and very likely last night game at home) with Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant visiting Chapel Hill. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is looking to take care of business and remind the ACC that it's a two-horse battle for the Coastal between the Hokies and North Carolina.
The biggest concern for this Virginia Tech team is how well will they handle coming off a tough primetime home loss to a high-quality team in Notre Dame given the youth on the roster? While that question will come after any other loss, the Hokies showed against Duke that even with their youth, this team has the maturity to rally. In addition, Justin Fuente has been one of the best at rallying his teams after a loss going 7-1 in those games with a 17-point average margin of victory in those wins.
As long as the Hokies can rally, this is a big mismatch even with Virginia Tech's youth. North Carolina is a program that has taken a major u-turn in the wrong direction and though the Tar Heels do have some talent with guys like Anthony Ratliff-Williams at WR, the gap between these two teams is much larger than the 5.5-point spread would suggest to you.
Virginia Tech's defense has lots of youth and secondary concerns at cornerback and with depth, but expect them to have a strong bounce-back performance as they did against Duke while expect another big game from Ryan Willis and company against a UNC team that has given up 41, 38, and 47 points in their past three games. Virginia Tech will get to give NC native Hendon Hooker some playing time in the fourth quarter as the Hokies win this one going away.
Pick: Virginia Tech 49, North Carolina 13
Here we go again, another game at UNC in the midst of a hurricane, or almost at least. While Hurricane Michael will be cleared out by the time Virginia Tech and North Carolina kick off on Saturday, it will be interesting to see if it affects the game in any way if any of the wind effects of the system are still in the region. Regardless of the weather, this one should be a cakewalk for the Hokies.
Coming off a loss to No. 6 Notre Dame, not all is lost for Virginia Tech. Sure, there were some key mistakes and kinks that need to be fixed going forward, but this team still has the ability to control its own destiny and win the ACC Coastal. They can start by getting a conference win against the Tar Heels this week.
UNC is 1-3 to start the season, the lone win coming in a three-point victory over Pittsburgh. The team has struggled early in 2018 and head coach Larry Fedora is trying hard to keep his job. UNC is averaging just 21 points per game while giving up 37 points a game. Compare that to the Hokies, who average 35 points per game this season and are giving up 26. ESPN give the Hokies a 77 percent chance to win this game, and I'm gonna have to agree with that.
Pick: Virginia Tech 34, North Carolina 17
The Hokies travel to Chapel Hill this weekend to take on a UNC team that has seen better days. In just a couple of years, Fedora has gone from a coveted commodity in the coaching market to being on the hot seat. UNC’s lone win this year has come against Pittsburgh, and all the games left on their schedule (outside of Western Carolina) are much harder than that one.
For this reason, I do think the Tar Heels will have a little bit of extra motivation. There’s been a lot of articles in North Carolina papers about how this is a “make-or-break” game for UNC. They way they look at it, beating Virginia Tech could save their season.
This may not be entirely true, considering that even with a win this weekend, the Heels would still have a lot of work to do to make a bowl game. Still, everyone at UNC sees this as a big game, and Fedora would certainly love to beat a Hokies team that has haunted him over the past couple of seasons.
Virginia Tech cannot take this game lightly. If they go in expected to get an easy win, UNC will pounce, no matter how bad they have been to this point. However, I don’t think the Hokies will go in win that attitude. For one thing, they have already learned better than that this season (let’s not re-live that one). For another thing, as much as he denies it, I believe Fuente wants to beat Carolina just a little bit more than other teams, and the players know it.
The Hokies have played extraordinary well in the state of North Carolina during Fuente’s tenure, and I expect that to continue on Saturday. If Tech can come out and score first, that will be a very important tone setter for the game. Hopefully, that tone will be one of superiority for the Hokies.
Pick: Virginia Tech 35, North Carolina 17
Two years ago, the Hokies went into North Carolina in the middle of a Hurricane and came out victorious. This weekend, the Hokies travel back to the home of the Tar Heels days after Hurricane Michael passed through the region.
This time the weather will be a lot better, but the teams are entirely different as UNC is struggling to find an identity while the Hokies are looking to rebound from a loss and continue to be undefeated in the ACC.
The Tech defense has shown flashes of greatness this season, but on the flip side, have shown their youth with a lack of discipline. After some mental gaffs cost the Hokies last week, look for the defense to focus on making the play and being in position to limit any offensive fireworks from the Tar Heels. The defensive units job just got a bit easier with UNC's likely top QB Chazz Surratt out for Saturday’s game. Don’t let that fool you though UNC could put up points if the defense loses its focus.
The offense has been a bright spot the last two weeks with the emergence of the Ryan Willis to Damon Hazelton connection. As long as the weather is good as expected, the Hokies' new found passing attack should be allowed to progress and improve.
However, if it does turn into a slug fest, I believe the two-headed rushing attack of Steven Peoples and Deshawn McClease is a volcano waiting to erupt. Peoples showed that he could be the featured back with some great runs last weekend. However, I look for Fuente to go with whoever has the hot hand at the time.
All in all, this is a game the Hokies should win and need to win to stay at the top of the Coastal, a very important place to be at this point in the season. The Hokies take this one 34-13 in an impressive performance on both sides of the ball. As always folks LETS GO HOKIES!!!!!!!
Pick: Virginia Tech 34, North Carolina 13
Photo Credit: Harley Taylor
Stay up with The Tech Lunch Pail for the latest on Virginia Tech. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Subscribe to our email updates.