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North Carolina 3 vs Virginia Tech

9/20/08

The 2-1 Virginia Tech Hokies make the relatively short trip to Chapel Hill to face 2-0 North Carolina in the ACC opener for the home team Tar Heels.


The Tar Heels opened the season at home with a 35-27 win vs a pretty decent Div 1 AA McNeese St team, but followed that up by totally destroying Rutgers on the road last week by a score of 44-12. Tar Heel QB T.J. Yates was an efficient 14 of 22 for 221 yds and 3 TDs, and the offense was also able to rack up 157 yds on the ground. The North Carolina defense came up big in holding Rutgers to 0-9 on 3rd down conversions and picking off 4 passes, returning one for a TD, which now gives this defense 6 TOs in their first 2 games. Carolina is coming off of a disappointing 3-9 2007 season which was actually much better than it looks, as 4 of their losses were by 4 pts or less and 2 more losses were by a TD or less. They actually out-played Virginia Tech in last years 17-10 loss at Blacksburg, out-gaining the Hokies on offense 306 yds 241 yds, and holding the edge in first downs 18-11 and time of possession 34:00 26:00. But a Tar Heel fumble at the goal line took away a potential game-tying score in the 3rd Q, and a subsequent Yates INT later in the quarter gave the Hokies a short field at the Tar Heel 12 yd line, resulting in a TD to put V.T. up by 14.


North Carolina returns virtually their entire team this year, with10 returning starters on offense and 8 on defense, so it is not surprising that they have gotten off to a quick start.



Virginia Tech started out this year with a tough 27-22 road loss at East Carolina. The offense managed just 243 total yds and 12 FDs in that game, and Hokie QB Sean Glennon served up 2 INTs to no TDs. But the Hokie defense and special teams, as usually, was able to bail the offense out a bit by returning a fumble for a TD, and returning a blocked PAT for 2 more points making the final score look somewhat respectable. That loss was followed by an uninspired 24-7 home win vs Div 1 AA Furman, a game in which the Hokies managed just 14 FDs and led just 3-0 at the half.

 

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Last week, Virginia Tech held off visiting Georgia Tech, 20-17, in their ACC opener despite being out-yarded by 140 yds. In an effort to spark the offense, Coach Beamer went with QB Tyrod Taylor, who was initially slated to redshirt this year in order to save him a year of eligibility. It didnt help much though as the Hokies were held again to a pretty paltry offensive output of under 250 yds. But the defense bailed them out, yet again, with an INT and 2 fumble recoveries setting up enough scoring opportunities to squeak out the win.


The Hokies return just 11 starters, 6 on offense and 5 on defense, from a team that finished the 2007 season at 11-3. Theyve got some huge holes to fill on offense as they have lost leading rusher RB Brandon Ore (992 yds, 10 TDs), as well as WRs Eddie Royal and Josh Morgan, who are both in the NFL now. And even with those star players, the best this offense could muster was a 100 overall ranking out of 119 Div 1 A teams last year. But the Hokies have usually survived due to tremendous defense and special teams play, as those units were responsible for 9 of the teams TDs last year.

This North Carolina team looks really sharp so far though, and many of those close losses from last year should turn into wins this year. Tar Heel QB Yates has already thrown for 5 TDs in just 2 games, with just 1 INT, and the offense has averaged 160 yds rushing per game. They have shown a quick strike capability, with TD passes of 57 and 69 yds. And defense and special teams have played very well and contributed 2 TDs and good field position.


Most of the Hokies offense has come on the ground this year, as they have only managed a total of 30 completions for 255 yds, and only 1 TD to 3 INTs through 3 games. They have dumped Glennon already and are hoping Taylor can generate some offense. Taylor can run, so if the Tar Heels can contain him and force him to pass more, and not turn the ball over themselves, they have a great chance of coming out of this game with a big win. Theyll be fired up in Chapel Hill for this one and Im expecting a great effort from this Tar Heel team. Despite Virginia Tech being a public favorite, the oddsmakers have made North Carolina the favorite here. And the line has already been bet up from 2 to 3, so this team is no fluke. Im picking North Carolina to win and cover this conference opener in front of the home crowd to improve to 3-0 for the season. NC -3 over Va Tech

 

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