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North Carolina vs Virginia Tech

Thursday Night Football ESPN

10/29/09

Virginia Tech hosts Butch Davis and the North Carolina Tar Heels Thursday Night on ESPN and the Hokies have been installed as a whopping 16.5 point favorite over their ACC Coastal rivals at most sportsbooks.

Virginia Tech was one of the hottest teams in the country since their opening game loss to Alabama. RB Ryan Williams had been tearing it up on the ground, and QB Tyrod Taylor had been showing real improvement with the passing game, but then they took on Coach Paul Johnson and his triple option rushing attack, and all that came to a sudden stop. Georgia Tech just lined up and ran the ball all game right at Virginia Tech, and the Hokies were unable to stop QB Josh Nesbitt and company.

Nesbitt ran the ball 23 times for 122 yards and 3 TD. This Virginia Tech football team is at a crossroads this Thursday. They can both put that game behind them, and contend for their 3rd straight ACC Title, or they can allow the wheels to fall off for this season.

This is a must win for the Virginia Tech Hokies if they are going to have a successful season, but North Carolina is also a team who needs a win in a bad way. With the way Head Coach Butch Davis had turned this North Carolina football team around everyone expected big things from the Tar Heels this season.

They were coming into this season off an 8 win season in 2008, and Butch Davis had been recruiting the type of players needed to be an ACC Title contender year in and year out, but things have just not come together like planned. UNC is 4-3 on the year with their only win against a BCS conference team being against Connecticut, and are 0-3 in conference play.

In their last game against Florida State they had the lead the whole game up until 6 minutes left in the game when QB Christian Ponder threw the game winning TD pass. UNC needed that win badly, but with them blowing that win late in the game, this Virginia Tech game almost becomes the make or break game for this season. An upset win is the quickest way for Butch Davis to salvage the year, so expect North Carolina to come out and play one of their best games of the year.

PRIMETIME MATCHUP

The most logical pick for the PRIMETIME MATCHUP is QB Tyrod Taylor and RB Ryan Williams going up against this stingy North Carolina Rush Defense, but I am going a different route in this one. While that matchup will be very important, I believe this game will be won somewhere else. UNC QB T.J. Yates started out playing well this year, but as the year has gone on he has been struggling more and more. In a game against FSU where you would figure Yates would be able to expose Florida State’s terrible secondary he went 12-25 for 64 yards 1 TD and 1 INT. UNC has had to rely on their defense to get the job done.

Virginia Tech has one of the best defensive coordinator’s in the country in Bud Foster, and you can bet he is going to commit to stopping the run first and foremost, and force QB T.J. Yates to beat him with his arm. RB Shaun Draughn carried the ball 23 times for 126 yards against Florida State and all-purpose back Greg Little brought a change of pace and carried the ball 4 times for 48 yards and 1TD, and also caught 6 passes for 60 yards. You stop those two RB’s and you stop this UNC offensive attack, and that is exactly what Bud Foster is going to try to do this Thursday.

THE FINAL VERDICT

Virginia Tech’s biggest issue all season was their defense. Their defense had been playing decent this year, but it is not the kind of defense Head Coach Frank Beamer and Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster have come to expect at Virginia Tech, and last week Georgia Tech exposed them.

Georgia Tech QB Josh Nesbitt went 1/7 for 51 yards and 1 INT, and the Hokies were still unable to get the win. When a QB only throws the ball 7 times all game as a defense you know exactly what is coming at you, and you have to be able to at least slow down your opponent’s rushing attack, but they weren’t able to. We expect North Carolina, after seeing the Hokie’s rush defense last week, to try to establish the run early. QB T.J. Yates has not been very effective all year, and he desperately is going to need his RB’s to get it going early on the ground to take the pressure off him. If they are able to do that, and Yates is able to use the play action passing attack to move the ball this Tar Heel offense will be able to make a game out of it, but this UNC offense has yet to give us a reason to think that will happen.

One year ago, North Carolina led this game by two touchdowns only to see Tech come back and win it by a field goal. The year prior, Tech won by a touchdown. Point being, the last two seasons, which not coincidentally are the seasons Butch Davis has been a Tar Heel, North Carolina has closed the gap. Both of these teams are pretty much the same teams they were a year ago. North Carolina has proved they can play with the Hokies. With that in mind, we feel this line is a tad inflated. Give us +16.5 or preferably +17 points with a team that could feasibly win the game straight up and we'll gladly sign on the dotted line.

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