Virginia Tech (2-2 SU, 1-3 ATS) hopes to find an offense against a North Carolina squad (3-1 SU, 2-2 ATS) looking for defensive help when both meet on Saturday afternoon at Kenan Memorial Stadium at 3:30pmET.
The Hokies upset the Tar Heels last season 17-10 as a 4.5-point dog at home.
Last Thursday, Virginia Tech's two-game winning streak was halted by West Virginia at home in a 33-10 rout. North Carolina had won the first three games of the season, but they were shredded by a struggling Notre Dame squad 45-32 as a 3-point home favorite on Saturday.
Note: There is a strong potential of heavy rain due to Hurricane Ian and possible thunderstorms, which means that this game could be delayed or moved to the night.
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How good are the Hokies?Let's face it. This is somewhat of a rebuilding season in Blackburg with new coach Brent Pry taking over for Justin Fuente. His opening game was a loss at ODU, 20-17 in a game he probably wished wasn't scheduled before he arrived. They beat up on a bad Boston College game 27-10 on Sept. 10 and then defeated FCS Wofford 27-7 at home as a 38-point favorite on Sept. 17. They were smoked by the Mountaineers on a Thursday night by 23 at home as they committed more penalties than they had first downs (15 for 132 yards). Quarterback Grant Wells, a transfer from Marshall, completed 16 of 35 for 193 yards and threw a pick-six late in the fourth quarter.
To make matters worse, Virginia Tech ran for 35 yards. In their most successful seasons, it's been about the running game, defense, and special teams. This squad at least has been consistent offensively. They cannot run as they average just 114.8 yards per game (109th), rank 91st in pass offense (218ypg) and 113th in points per game (20.3).
“It’s obviously been something that’s been at the top of our list this week,” Pry said to the Virginia Pilot. “You have the high number of penalties in Week 1, and then you follow it up with five in each of the next two weeks, so you feel like you kind of got it nipped in the bud. Then you come back with an ugly game there.
“In the team meeting, I asked the guys if we had eliminated 10 penalties, could we have won the football game. To a man, the answer was yes.”
It starts with Wells, who has completed 59.8% of his passes for 844 yards with five TDs and five picks. Keshawn King leads the Hokies with 179 yards and one TD on 6.2 yards per carry.
Defensively, the Hokies have an elite defense, allowing just 255 yards per game (10th), 170 passing yards (20th) and 85 rushing yards (13th) per game. They will be tested in this one after allowing 421 yards against West Virginia and fatigue likely played a part when considering they were on the field for nearly 39 minutes
Calling for a defenseNotre Dame didn't exactly come into their game against UNC as an offensive juggernaut. This was a team that had a bad home loss to Marshall and beat a bad Cal team by seven as a 13.5-point favorite in their previous game. So when they piled up 35 first downs, which was the most since 1996, Tar Heels fans had to just shake their heads. The Irish were able to rush the ball 51 times for 287 yards, thus keeping UNC's outstanding offense off the field.
North Carolina has been so bad defensively that they decided to hold a player's-only meeting, despite being 3-1. Fortunately for UNC, they put up 56 points against FCS Florida A&M at home (56-24), 63 at Appalachian State in a two-point win, and 35 at Georgia State in a seven-point win. They are averaging 46.5 points per game to rank eighth in the nation, 502.3 yards per game (16th), 307.8 passing yards (19th), and 194.5 rushing yards (34th). However, on the defensive end, they are allowing 495.3 yards per game (127th), 278.8 passing yards (113th), and 216.5 rushing yards (122nd), while giving up 39.5 points per game (123rd).
Fortunately for UNC, they have redshirt freshman Drake Maye at quarterback, who is completing 69% of his passes for 1,231 yards with 16 TDs and just one pick. WR Kobe Paysour leads with 15 catches for 172 yards and two TDs.
“Drake, he’s a special kid and his arm talent is pretty good,” UNC senior receiver Antoine Green said in the NewsObserver.com. ”And he’s accurate as well. He makes a lot of different throws that I haven’t seen nobody make. The ceiling is very high for him.”
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
There's no doubt which team has the edge on offense, but this is a sport where defense matters and North Carolina hasn't just stopped defending this year. This has been a problem for awhile with Mack Brown in his second stint as head coach. Virginia Tech had a few extra days of rest and the weather conditions could be sloppy, which would help both defenses. Their defense is also very good and if they can get some points, they'll actually have more motivation. Grant Wells is certainly capable of taking advantage of a bad pass defense. That's way too many points to lay with the Heels.
Full-Game Total Pick
Tough call with the potential weather, but going with the Hokies and the under. They've gone under in four straight and five of six. Last season, these teams scored just 27 combined points and Sam Howell was the record-setting QB for the Tar Heels. Virginia Tech wants to run the football and possess the ball in long drives to keep the ball away from Maye and that offense. The weather also could help in that scenario. Take the under.