Thursday Night NCAA Football Preview: North Carolina at Virginia Tech
by Matt Severance - 10/28/2009
It's the second Thursday night game in a row for the North Carolina Tar Heels, and it's hard to imagine this one against Virginia Tech going any worse than last week's did against Florida State.
UNC was dominating FSU last week to the tune of 24-6 early in the third quarter but was then outscored 24-3 in the final 22 minutes. The Heels are now 0-3 in the ACC Coastal and basically playing out the string just hoping to be bowl eligible - they must win at least three of their final five games but are 16.5-point dogs for this one on Bookmaker.
Virginia Tech still has a lot to play for, although last week's Clemson upset of Miami was a crusher for the Hokies. Why? They and Georgia Tech now are the only teams in the Coastal with one division loss, and Virginia Tech would lose a two-team tiebreaker with the Jackets by virtue of Georgia Tech's 28-23 win on Oct. 17. A three-team tiebreaker including Miami (now unlikely) would have probably favored Virginia Tech.
The UNC-Virginia Tech rivalry hasn't been much of one, with the Hokies winning all five meetings since they joined the ACC and limiting the Heels to just seven total touchdowns. Virginia Tech forced four turnovers in last year's 20-17 win. The UNC offense has been pretty bad all year -- the ground game had a good effort last week but QB T.J. Yates was awful, completing less than 50 percent of his passes for 64 yards and a pick -- so it's hard to see that unit, which ranks No. 114 in total offense, doing much against Virginia Tech's defense. The Hokie D is giving up just 241.8 yards and 11.5 points per game at home.
Certainly the Heels defense will be focusing on Hokies freshman RB Ryan Williams, who already has a Tech freshman-record five 100-yard-plus rushing games and is seventh in the country, averaging nearly 120 yards per game. Since 1993, Tech is 140-15 when outrushing its opponents. Last week, while UNC was shredded by the pass it shut down FSU's running game, holding the Seminoles to 43 yards on 25 rushes, and has held five of seven opponents to less than 100 yards on the season. That unit, ranked No. 7 nationally in total defense, is led by sophomore defensive end Robert Quinn, who leads the ACC and is 12th in the country in tackles for losses (11), and is second in the league and eighth in the nation in sacks (7).
The Hokies are one of the best teams on Thursday night ESPN games. They are 15-4 all-time and 9-2 at home. The under has hit in 10 of their past 11 Thursday night games.
The Heels are 4-3 in Thursday nighters. This will be the first ranked team they have faced this season, but UNC is currently on a three-game winning streak against Top 25 foes. The Heels haven't beaten a ranked opponent on the since 2001 and are 0-4 all-time against ranked Virginia Tech teams.
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