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Matchup: North Carolina (6-4) at #9 Virginia Tech (9-1)
Venue: Lane Stadium (Natural Grass)
Date: Thursday, Nov. 10
Time/TV: 8:00 p.m. ET - ESPN
Line: Virginia Tech -10.5, o/u 47
Thanks to the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, my seesaw season on Thursday nights rolls on. Paul Johnson's team had looked very impressive at home this season and I suspected they would be too much for the visitors from Blacksburg, VA. Alas, Virginia Tech got a strong game from David Wilson on the ground and solid effort from their defense and were able to put a strangle hold on the coastal division of the ACC.
This week we will stick with the Hokies and head over to Blacksburg as head coach Frank Beamer welcomes the North Carolina Tar Heels to town.
UNC is coming off a bye and the extra rest couldn't have come at a better time for the program. After starting the season 5-1, the Tar Heels have dropped three of their last four games. The low point for UNC came in their most recent game, on Nov. 5 against NC State. Carolina was blanked 13-0 by a pretty pedestrian Wolfpack squad in a game where the team looked listless.
If the bye week wasn't able to recharge the batteries for the Tar Heels, it could be a long night for the visitors from North Carolina. After beating Georgia Tech, the Hokies know they are a couple of steps away from returning to the ACC Championship game and likely a chance to seek revenge against Clemson.
The Tigers are the only team to beat Virginia Tech and they did it in convincing fashion with a 23-3 win in Blacksburg on Oct. 1. In that game, Clemson executed a very efficient offense and combined that with a devastating effort on defense to suffocate the Hokies.
That combination is something that - on a good day - North Carolina is capable of bringing to the field. Most talent evaluators recognize that North Carolina has a ton of NFL talent along their defensive front seven. Players such as DE Quinton Coples will definitely be playing on Sunday afternoons soon enough and if Virginia Tech isn't up for the challenge, the Heels could make things interesting Thursday night.
On offense, Carolina features QB Bryn Renner, a sophomore who is still learning the nuances of the college game. Throwing for 227.1 yards per game while completing 71.4% of his passes, Renner has shown flashes of brilliance with 19 TDs but also plenty of rookie mistakes with 11 INTs in 10 games. The youngster has also taken his fair share of bumps and bruises lately as he's been sacked 22 times this season, including 14 in the last five games.
The other side of the coin for the UNC offense is RB Giovani Bernard. The talented back is third in the ACC in rushing with just over 100 yards a game and second in the conference with 11 rushing TDs. Behind a North Carolina offensive line which averages 6-5, 319 pounds, Bernard is typically provided with plenty of holes to run through.
If Renner can eliminate the mistakes and be efficient with his passes and Bernard can establish an effective running game, North Carolina could definitely make this game interesting. Remember, UNC won on their last trip to Blacksburg, defeating the Hokies 20-17 in 2009.
That said, on senior night in Lane Stadium, with the Hokies eyeing another return to the ACC Championship game, it's hard to believe we will see much less than the best effort from Beamer's program. If that is the case, UNC will have a hard time matching the home team.
Virginia Tech has gone 3-7 ATS
VT has gone 4-1 SU and 1-4 ATS at home this season, the lone cover coming against Appalachian State (66-13)
The Hokies are 1-5 ATS as double-digit favorites this season
North Carolina is 4-6 ATS
The Tar Heels are 1-3 both SU and ATS on the road, all three losses by double digits
Virginia Tech has won 6 of the last 7 meetings (4-3 ATS) against North Carolina
The Hokies have been double-digit favorites in five of these games, only covering twice
The 'under' has gone 6-1 during this run