Liberty vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

This week we have a guest contributor @DriftVT from Twitter writing this week’s preview.

Before we get into the preview, please consider giving to a GoFundMe to support the families affected by the shooting in Charlottesville this week: https://www.gofundme.com/c/act/uva-shooting-help

After back-to-back collapses against NC State and Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech was completely outmatched by the Duke Blue Devils this past weekend. A game that left most Virginia Tech fans feeling demoralized. It was a tough game to watch, as Virginia Tech took the lead to start the game, and failed to score again. Losing even against the spread which was 9.5 in favor of Duke.

Moving forward to this week, Virginia Tech is playing the best program in the state of Virginia, in Liberty. Hugh Freeze has built a winning G5 program, and he was recently signed to an extension keeping him at Liberty for years to come. Until the SEC gives him a ring.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 98th
Offense: 123rd
Defense: 48th
Special Teams: 82nd

Liberty

Overall: 73rd
Offense: 81st
Defense: 49th
Special Teams: 87th

In order for Virginia Tech to contain this Liberty offense, they will need to slow down Demario Douglas. From Jacksonville, FL, Demario has 830 yards this season on 56 catches, which is already a season high for him. He is a shifty mismatch nightmare for defenses to contain and it begs the question, who will Virginia Tech put on him? Usually in this scenario, Chamari Conner or DJ Harvey will cover the slot in man coverage. I’d expect to see more zone this week as I do not believe the staff will be comfortable playing man coverage against him all game. 

On the offensive side of the ball, the Hokies still look completely lost. Everything looks difficult and forced. At least we have been able to snap the ball without false starting every play, which has been about the only improvement. In terms of what works; well, nothing really, outside of throwing the ball downfield to Kaleb Smith. Virginia Tech will have to do whatever they can to score at least 20 points to keep this game within reach. And they’ll need the defense to gift them a turnover as well. 

There are quite a few fans calling for Tyler Bowen to be fired, and while I am completely uninspired by his performance this season, I don’t think he will be let go. I think Pry would like to keep the same staff heading into next season, hoping to learn and grow as a unit. While a new OC could help, I think it might be too soon to cut the cord. 

Up until after the Georgia Tech game, I had said on Twitter just how far one of these games would help recruiting in Virginia if Pry could squeak one or two out. We thought we had it with Miami, then NC State, and then Georgia Tech. If we get blown out this weekend, it will seriously damage the moral of the fanbase and all the buzz around the program. I really think a win here, while unlikely, could go a very long way in repairing some of the damage done by previous staff. Remember, it is a revenge game for the Hokies. 

Even with that being said, here’s my prediction:

Liberty 24, Virginia Tech 13

Duke vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

For the third time this season, the Hokies have collapsed at the end of a game. A game they should have had in hand and failed to put away. This is a trend that has been present for the last few years. It’s a losing mentality. When this team encounters any adversity, they fold like a cheap tent. There are reasons like talent and depth that this team wears out late in game. But that’s only part of the answer. The other part is a psychology of losing that this team can’t seem to kick.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 91st
Offense: 116th
Defense: 48th
Special Teams: 49th

Duke

Overall: 76th
Offense: 61st
Defense: 80th
Special Teams: 53rd

It’s been a while but Duke is good at football again. Mike Elko has done an awesome job of getting the most out of the roster he inherited from David Cutcliffe. This is what VT fans were hoping for from the Pry era but it appears that Duke had a more ready-made roster. Duke has a very good rushing offense that will give the Hokies trouble. Particularly rushing from the QB position. Expect the Hokies to play a lot of zone to try to keep the Duke running game in check. There will be a lot of rushing yards from Duke QB Riley Leonard, especially from read option plays.

Duke’s defense is vulnerable against the pass. Unfortunately, VT’s passing offense is not consistent enough to take advantage of it. The Hokies show flashes here and there in the passing game but it’s not enough. If there was a game where the Tech should focus on airing it out a bit, it’s this game. The Hokies should focus on targeting Kaleb Smith, Dae’Quan Wright and Nick Gallo downfield. This is also a good opportunity for guys like Da’Wain Lofton and Stephen Gosnell to step up in the passing game. The Hokies won’t be able to score much in this game from their run-based offense. They will need some downfield throws to move the ball against a stout Duke defense.

It seems like everything has been a struggle for the Hokies this season. Do they have a chance in this game? Of course. But Duke seems like they are firing on all cylinders based on their roster. Tech is still trying to figure things out. The best thing for Tech to do is forget all the negative plays and bad energy and focus on going 1-0. This team has the talent to win but they need to put a complete game together. There are only three more opportunities to get that done this year. Let’s see if they can finish the season strong.

Prediction: Duke 31, Virginia Tech 17

Georgia Tech vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

That NC State loss was a tough one to swallow. Virginia Tech did what they needed to do to win but couldn’t close the deal. After NC State scored their first touchdown, the Hokies went into expect-to-lose mode. That game felt like a carryover from the Fuente era. We have seen more than a few games play out like that over the last few years. This program has a losing culture right now. They need to start changing that mentality if they want to move forward and build a winning program again.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 91st
Offense: 117th
Defense: 49th
Special Teams: 49th

Georgia Tech

Overall: 97th
Offense: 106th
Defense: 83rd
Special Teams: 89th

Grant Wells should be able to make plays against Georgia Tech’s secondary. The Hokies offense just needs to avoid being one-dimensional. Running into the interior of the line over and over again will not work. The Hokies need to open up their passing attack and press the edges of the defense with outside runs. VT should try more misdirection and read options. Right now, the offense is just to easy to read for defenses. The Hokies also need to try to get the ball in the hands of Keshawn King and Bryce Duke in open space. Whether it be via outside runs or quick screen passes. They were far too predictable on offense against NC State.

This game will come down to whether Jeff Sims is healthy enough to play and be effective. The Georgia Tech offense is much better with him behind center. Even if Jeff Sims is available, the Georgia Tech offense hasn’t had much to write home about this year. Like the Hokies, they are one of the worst Power 5 offenses in the nation. They run the ball a little better than they throw it but they are not really good at either. This is where the Hokies’ defense should have a significant advantage.

This game represents the Hokies best chance of getting a win the rest of the season. If the defense plays well and can limit the GT offense, I see the Hokies having a good chance to win. If Jeff Sims shows up and is healthy, he’s the best player on the field and could be the difference. All things being equal, the Hokies will put enough together on offense and defense to squeak a victory. I hope they find a way to play more than one quarter of offense this week.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Georgia Tech 21

Georgia Tech Q&A with Talkin’ ACC Sports

This week we are joined by Jeffrey Fann from @TalkinACCSports.

Tell us about yourself and All Sports Discussion. 

I am graduate of Georgia Tech and Clemson grew up a fan of ACC Basketball. Those were the collegiate sports I’ve watched the most and I started All Sports Discussion about 10 years ago because I spent so much time talking about ACC sports, I figured I’d start sharing it. I didn’t think the ACC got fair coverage in media and I want to the voice that too. I started an ACC podcast with @Hokiesmash_ASD a couple of years after that and that’s a lot of fun. He usually lines up the guests freeing me up to write. 

Tell us about your team this year. What are your thoughts on Georgia Tech this season?

The best thing about the Georgia Tech season was the day Geoff Collins was fired. He was a total disaster as a head coach. The season was going nowhere when he was there. For a couple of games after his firing Georgia Tech played some inspired football and beat Pittsburgh and Duke, but with the injury to QB Jeff Sims and his status unknown the offense just can’t move the ball. Defensively, they have had some good moments since Collins was fired, and is a decent unit. I feel like the bowl chances are gone, but there will be a game where things break right and they win one more time. 

What do you think about the job that Brent Key has done so far?

He’s made the special teams a respectable unit. That in itself is a win as it was a total mess with Collins. He brought accountability to the team and a sense of cohesion. The back to back wins made you feel good about Georgia Tech football for the first time in years. Unfortunately, the injury to Sims limits what he can do. Overall, he’s done a pretty decent job taking over and making Georgia Tech look functional. Just getting functional was a big upgrade over the previous coach. 

How do you feel about the Georgia Tech-Virginia Tech annual rivalry coming to an end?

I think it’s had better days for sure, but in it’s hey day when both were competing for Coastal division titles, it was one of the most underrated annual games in the ACC. With the frequency that they will still play I will miss the game, but they’ll meet often to maintain a good sense of rivalry.  

What’s your favorite memory from the rivalry? 

The 2009 game that Georgia Tech won 28-23 over a top 5 ranked Virginia Tech. There was a lot of talk that the 2nd time around seeing Paul Johnson’s triple option that teams would be on to it. That was a really good Hokie team and it convinced me that Paul Johnson had a chance to win a lot more games. He did and it start with game. QB Josh Nesbitt was warrior in that one. 

What’s your outlook on the future of the ACC? 

 That’s a good question. I think for the next 5-7 years nothing happens regarding team movement, but the TV Deal in comparison to the Big 10 and SEC is a problem. I don’t think the ACC is catching them, no matter what they do. What the ACC must do is get well ahead of the Big 12 and Pac 12 to be solidly in third. I do think you’ll see adjustments to the TV deal, but will it be enough? It would be nice if ACC commissioner Jim Phillips would be more transparent in what he is doing to raise ACC revenues. He’s been far too quiet on the matter. 

What are your expectations for the Virginia Tech game? 

It all depends on the status of QB Jeff Sims. Zach Pryon showed some ability against Florida State, but he’s really inexperienced. That’s a bad combination on the road, against a pretty good defense. I think the defense can limit Virginia Tech’s inconsistent offense and I’d like see Pryon continue to develop. 

What’s your prediction for the game?

I expect Sims to not play or be very limited, and Virginia Tech showed some good things on offense against NC State. 

These feel like a defensive battle but one that goes in the Hokies favor 20-10.  

Miami vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

We saw some real improvement against Pitt. The offense scored some points. They were able to run the ball. And they were competitive into the 4th quarter. Can they do it again? Can this team hold up for a full 60 minutes? This team has been pretty good at taking games into the 4th quarter but that’s where things fall apart. Is it talent? Is it depth? Is it injuries? I’m not sure we know yet but it’s something that needs to get fixed if they Hokies want to chalk up more wins this season.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 86th
Offense: 118th
Defense: 44th
Special Teams: 30th

Miami

Overall: 54th
Offense: 48th
Defense: 61st
Special Teams: 18th

Miami’s passing offense has been very good against some bad defenses this season. They got tested against Texas A&M and only managed 9 points. Virginia Tech has had a good pass defense and the Hokies’ front seven should be able to get stops. Having Alan Tisdale return should be a nice boost to this defense this week.

Miami has stout defensive line that does not allow a lot of rushing yards. If the Hokies want to move the ball it’ll have to be through the air. The Hokies’ receivers need to be able to win one-on-one battles with Miami’s defensive backs. The Canes’ linebackers are great run stuffers but not as great in coverage. This would be a good game for the Hokies to use their tights ends and crossing routes in the pass game.

The Hokies defense should hold up pretty well against Miami’s offense. It would help to have Dorian Strong back but even if he’s not, they should hold their own. I’m more worried about the Hokies offense against Miami’s defense. Miami has the ability to make Tech one-dimensional. I don’t trust the Hokies’ passing attack in that situation. The Hokies will need some semblance of a run game to help their pass game be effective. This will be a close game and Miami slows down the Hokies offense enough to pull it out in the end.

Prediction: Miami 28, Virginia Tech 21

Miami Q&A with Dirty Bird from The Cane Gang Radio Show

This week we are joined by Miami radio show host Ryan (“Dirty Bird”) from the Cane Gang Radio Show. You can follow him on Twitter (@dirtyyybird) and listen to his radio show every Friday from 11a-1p ET on SiriusXM channel 145.

Tell us about yourself and your radio show. 

My name is Ryan, but I go by “Dirty Bird” on Twitter (@dirtyyybird) I worked in the equipment room during the late 90s for the Atlanta Falcons and the name has always stuck with me through fantasy football and social media platforms. I am a lifelong fan of the Canes having grown up in South Florida and watching the teams of the late 80s and early 90s, I fell in love with them at an early age and despite how rocky our relationship has been over the last 20+ years, I get more and more into it every year! Recently, I have started to contribute on a Canes focused radio show called The Cane Gang Radio Show that airs every Friday from 11a-1p on SiriusXM channel 145 SLAM! Radio. I do the show with Derek Coe who is one of the most well known recognizable fans around our program and John Michaels who is based in Atlanta and is on The Locker Room on 680 the Fan. We are just a couple of old guys who hop on the air and talk completely unscripted and unfiltered. Our show has had a number of recognizable guests including Vince Wilfork, Santana Moss, Uncle Luke, Brett Romberg, and even former VT WR Isaiah Ford.

Tell us about your team this year. What are your thoughts on Miami so far this season?

Clearly, we had higher hopes for our team so far this season. We fought hard at Texas A&M, just came up short in the end. I think that loss sucked a ton of the life out of us. Then you come back and think you have a layup and the game proves to be anything but that. The loss to MTSU was shocking and the perfect storm of everything that could possibly go wrong going wrong in one single game. Nevertheless, you have to win those games so there is no excuse you can make! We are still licking our wounds from that one and then walked into a matchup with a team in UNC that has always given us fits. We fought hard, and despite the loss, there was some good to unpack there.

I remain optimistic knowing that this is a process and as much as we want to win now, it is going to take time to get it going. We are pointed in the right direction, yet have a long way to go to get where we want to be.

What do you think about the job that Mario Cristobal has done so far?

Mario Cristobal is focused in the right areas building through relentless recruiting and putting funding in the program to build out the support staff to a level needed to win in the current landscape of college football. Some are screaming the sky is falling in our fan base (I am sure VT has those too) but we are 5 games into what we know is a major rebuild of a program that has been hurting for decades. Nobody cares more than he does. I (and most of our fan base) remain “all in” on him!

 How do you feel about the Miami-Virginia Tech annual rivalry coming to an end?

Well, I love the new format for scheduling and think after these 4 years (where we still play twice) they will get us back on the annual matchup! Hopefully we get to meet in the ACCG!

What’s your favorite memory from the rivalry?

I think anytime you look at these rivalries, you have to look at when both teams are ranked high and there is a ton at stake. The games between us should mean something. Unfortunately, for both of us, that has not been the case for a while. But for my favorite memory, I will go to 2017 to the time that we were both really humming and VT came to Hard Rock ranked 13 to play the Canes ranked 9th. We had won the previous 4 in really close fashion, so there was a ton of talk that despite a record of 7-0, we were fraudulent. That night at Hard Rock was electric and VT fans showed up in force too! We won the game in convincing fashion (sorry VT fans!) and it really catapulted us into a feeling we had not felt in forever!

 What’s your outlook on the future of the ACC? 

I think the ACC has two things going for it making it really hard to break it up. #1 the TV contracts and grant of rights making it nearly impossible for anyone to break off 1 or 2 teams. Plus, #2 the ACC is still really the premier basketball conference even though the SEC and Big12 have had better basketball the last few years. I think lots of important TV executives (who are really the ones who run all of this) would not want to implode the ACC. But hey, who really saw USC & UCLA to the B1G! Anything is possible!

What are your expectations for the Virginia Tech game? 

Well, first and foremost I respect VT as an opponent and always will despite either teams record. I do feel as though we are in a back against the wall position and I think (hope) we come out swinging. We are due for a good effort and honestly think we get it here. The thing is, I see the same being true for your program as well. Hard to gauge, but I see us coming out on top!

What’s your prediction for the game?

Miami 34-21

Pittsburgh vs Virginia Tech Preview and Prediction

The offense has been bad for two straight weeks against not-so-great defenses. I respect that Brent Pry wants to instill his culture but he also has to find a way to make the offense work. In the first half, the Hokies put together a couple of nice drives (see the video tweets below). Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep up that level of consistency throughout the game. But you can see glimpses of an offense that is maybe starting to put things together.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 87th
Offense: 118th
Defense: 35th
Special Teams: 30th

Pittsburgh

Overall: 45th
Offense: 22nd
Defense: 76th
Special Teams: 121st

Pittsburgh has an efficient offense. Not as good as WVU or UNC’s but still pretty solid. Like those two teams, they are well balanced running and passing the ball. They have a running back to can pick up big chunk plays and a quarterback who doesn’t make many mistakes. A lot like WVU, this is an offense that can nickle and dime you all the way downfield. The Hokies defense will need to find ways to get off the field on third down. They held up well for three quarters against West Virginia. Now, they’ll to find a way to do it for 60 minutes — with a little help from the offense.

This looks like a traditional Pitt defense. Good not great. They are good at defending the pass and not as good at defending the run. With VT’s run blocking I’m not sure that matters much. Teams with good offenses have had success against this defense. Even Georgia Tech’s putrid offense was able to put up 26 points on Pitt. That might be an outlier but still, this defense has it’s weaknesses. It’s all a matter of if the Hokies can exploit any of them.

I’ve started to go into how-many-points-will-Tech-lose-by mode. For me, it’s less about wins and losses this year and more about showing improvement week-to-week. The defense is about what I expected. The offense is far worse than I expected. But teams rarely stay exactly the same all year long. There are ebbs and flows. I’m hoping as the weeks go by, we start seeing some more life from this offense. Until then, I’m in wait-and-see mode. I’m not going to pick Tech to score more than 10 points in a P5 game until they prove they can.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 33, Virginia Tech 10

Pittsburgh Q&A with The Loyal Sons

This week we are joined by Pittsburgh podcast The Loyal Sons. You can follow them on Twitter (@TheLoyalSons) and listen to their podcast here.

Tell us about yourself and your podcast. 

John “Squid” Cotton, 26

Dylan Mitchell, 26

David Haddad, 27

The Loyal Sons started as Dylan’s burner account under the name “Capel Faithful”, honoring the new savior of Pitt Basketball. While Jeff Capel’s tenure has not exactly been a success, the Twitter account was able to gather a surprising following. As a group of dudes in our mid-20s, modern social mores demanded that we then start a podcast. And so in September of 2021, The Loyal Sons Show was born.

While none of us could break down an All-22 to save our lives, we take pride in capturing the zeitgeist of Pitt Football fandom better than anyone: snake-bitten, yet relentlessly hopeful. Reactionary, but surprisingly patient. And above all, emotionally dependent on Kenny Pickett.

Tell us about your team this year. What are your thoughts on Pitt so far this season?

If we only had one word to describe the theme of Pitt’s first four games, it would be “injuries”. To date, 14 players on Pitt’s 2-deep have missed time, many of whom are crucial pieces with huge expectations. Plugging so many holes has forced Coach Narduzzi to play conservatively against overmatched opponents, This has resulted in unnecessarily close games, including this past weekend’s absolute meltdown against GT – the worst loss of the Narduzzi era. The game plan has been simple: run the ball, do the bare minimum to win, get back on the bus with as many guys as stepped off of it, and get healthy for the meat of conference play. But now we’re 0-1 in the ACC and getting completely (and fairly) written off, so a lot of good that did us.

Pitt fans will tell you we know very little about this team. It felt like all the pieces were there for an ACC Championship contender (or better) until Saturday’s loss. This defense has the potential to be one of the better units in the country once it gets both starting DEs and its Top CB back and in a rhythm. The offense should be capable of more than its paltry output thus far. This team could still be dangerous down the stretch. Or they might totally suck. We just don’t know yet.

How have Pitt fans responded to winning the ACC last season? 

Pitt fans couldn’t have dreamt of a season like 2021. Older fans thought they would die without ever having seen something like it again. Truly a magical ride that will never be forgotten.

Then came 2022 and the dream became an expectation. We went from praying for a 10-win season to getting greedy about rankings and playoff buzz. We came into the season feeling disrespected about the narratives that have surrounded this team. All we heard was “No Kenny, no Addison, no Whipple.” We became an afterthought despite returning everyone in the building but those three. It gave everyone – players, coaches, and fans – a bit of a chip on their shoulders. But the disrespect may have been for good reason.

This season is viewed as a make-or-break for the program. It’s massively important for Pitt to build on last season’s success if it ever wants to return to the glory of the 70’s and 80’s. Kenny Pickett opened a window, and Pat Narduzzi needs capitalize on it. Because we can’t go back to the fucking Sun Bowl.

What are your thoughts on having Virginia Tech added as a permanent rival after this season? 

We’re pretty pumped about it. Pitt hasn’t really developed many “true” rivalries since it came to the ACC, so this could be a huge opportunity. VT and Miami feel like the closest thing Pitt has, given their shared histories in the Big East. The increased familiarity could be big for this rivalry, considering we’ve barely played 20 times.

Also, pretty pumped to get to come to Blacksburg more. Cool town, good food, Enter Sandman, etc.

Do you view Virginia Tech as a rival program? 

We dislike Virginia Tech. It seems like Virginia Tech dislikes Pitt (or at least Pat Narduzzi). We play yinz every year and it always feels like a meaningful game. But The Loyal Sons don’t loathe Virginia Tech. We loathe Penn State. We loathe West Virginia. For VT, it just isn’t there yet.

But it could be! It would be good for both programs for this matchup to grow in importance. The new scheduling wrinkle is going to go a very long way in making that happen. But we also all bear some individual responsibility in pouring a little more gasoline on the fire. So screw you, Treadmill Horse. What kind of name even is that?

What’s your favorite memory from the rivalry? 

Not just our favorite Pitt-VT memory, but one of our favorite football memories, period…

Lousaka Polite’s go-ahead touchdown to put #25 Pitt over the top against #5 VT in 2003. All three of us consider it our earliest memory of watching Pitt Football.

The matchup between Pitt and VT at Heinz Field in 2018 is a fan favorite too. Pitt controlled their own destiny to win the ACC Coastal, and for that reason, Pitt fans were expecting the worst. Plot-twist, Pitt wins by 30 and nearly ran for 500 yards. We still talk about Qadree Ollison stiff-arming Caleb Farley on his 97-yard TD run to this day.

But if you want a least favorite memory, we have one that’s a bit more favorable to your side. In 2019, we rolled about 20 people deep to Blacksburg to watch the Hokies go up 28-0 before halftime in an absolute downpour. We didn’t stay much past that point. Our last memory leaving the stadium was hearing the PA man announce Paris Ford’s targeting ejection. Salt in the wound. 

What’s your outlook on the future of the ACC? 

The ACC is in a pretty stable place despite how un-sexy it’s been for like 10 years. The Grant of Rights ties all 14 teams to the conference until 2036 save a majority of schools vote to nullify it and leave. But that would almost require all of the other power conferences in CFB to coordinate together to divy up the 8+ most attractive programs in the ACC, recruit them, whip the votes, and then negotiate their exit – all behind closed doors. 

So that doesn’t seem likely. But that doesn’t do jack for the value or respectability of the ACC in the meantime. The ACC needs to be proactive about the changing winds of college football. And that starts with picking off some desirable brands from the PAC12, Big 12, and maybe even some G5 powers. Realignment is going to continue, and a P5 conference is likely to crash and burn and be picked apart by the vultures circling overhead. It would be easy for the ACC to fall behind if it doesn’t make moves ASAP. Do it for pride, do it for the TV money. Whatever. Just do it.

On top of that, the big brands of the ACC need to stop being pathetic. What the hell happened to Florida State and Miami? Hell, even GT and VT aren’t what they were 20 years ago (rich coming from Pitt fans, we know). We can’t lean on the GoR to survive. At some point, we have to do football good.

What are your expectations for the Virginia Tech game? 

Brent Pry is in a true Year 0. Justin Fuente left the cabinet pretty bare, and in theory there’s a not-insignificant talent deficit between these two teams. Pry has all the resources to build something special in the Commonwealth, but that doesn’t do you much good this season.

We said the same about Georgia Tech though, and we all saw how that ended up. So maybe coaching and preparation might have something to do with wins and losses as well. It doesn’t matter how much deeper we think Pitt is if they keep coming out in a tight 2-WR set on 3rd & long and either running a draw or eating a bad coverage sack. 

VT has the defensive power to keep this game slow and sluggish to start, but at the end of the day, I think Pitt pulls it out because there’s a few starters and coordinators whose jobs might depend on it.

What’s your prediction for the game?

Before the GT game we said Pitt wins 34-10. But now we’re sad and angry so we predict 17-10. Neither team’s offense is going anywhere right now.

North Carolina Preview and Prediction

That WVU game did not go as expected. The Hokies defense kept VT in the game for three quarters but the offense couldn’t get anything going. Tech’s offenses failures took its toll on the defense and WVU ran away with the game in the 4th quarter. If the Hokies want to remain competitive in ACC play, they will need to get better play from their offense. If they can’t, there may not be many more wins on the schedule.

SP+ Rankings

Virginia Tech

Overall: 79th
Offense: 119th
Defense: 23rd
Special Teams: 29th

North Carolina

Overall: 67th
Offense: 10th
Defense: 113th
Special Teams: 10th

North Carolina is an elite offensive team. They rank 6th in the nation in passing efficiency and 8th in scoring offense. Drake Maye has picked up right where Sam Howell left off without missing a beat. This is one of the most dangerous offenses in the country. They show balance running and throwing the ball. They look like a better version of West Virginia on offense. The Hokies’ defense showed well against WVU for three quarters until they wore out in the 4th. Tech needs some help from their offense to keep the UNC offense off the field. They can’t continue to go three and out on every drive. The Hokies are going to have to make a couple of plays on Saturday to keep their own defense off the field.

The Hokies running game was anemic vs WVU. They could not get anything going. They rushed for 1.9 yards per carry on 18 rushing attempts. That’s not going to cut in against P5 opponents. The run blocking has been a mess all season and doesn’t appear to be improving. This is a group that needs to turn the corner, otherwise the VT offense will be stuck in the mud all season. We will need to see some improvements from that group starting this week. Joe Rudolph is known for being a great offensive line coach, so the hope is that group will improve over time. North Carolina has one of the worst defenses in the nation. The Hokies will need to find a way to put some points on the board this week. Tech is going to need Grant Wells to be more accurate with his passes. The UNC defense has been known to give up the big play. Grant Wells will need to be able to connect on his passes when his receivers find space in the secondary.

North Carolina is averaging 46.5 points per game. Their lowest scoring output was against Notre Dame last week and they still put up 32 points. The Hokies will need to be able to score into the 30s to win this game. The cannot expect another 17-10 game like last year. If the Hokies aren’t able to run the ball, they are going to be in BIG trouble this week. Tyler Bowen and Joe Rudolph are going to have to figure out a way to get their running backs the ball in space. They can’t continue to run into the line for less than 2 yards per carry. If the Hokies can’t find a way to run the ball like they did against Boston College, it’s going to be a long day for the Tech defense. If there is a lot of rain in the forecast, bet the under.

Prediction: North Carolina 35, Virginia Tech 24

North Carolina Q&A with Tar Heel Nation

This week we are joined by Tar Heel Nation (@unc_tarheelfan on Twitter).

Tell us about yourself and your blog.

I primarily stick to Twitter (@unc_tarheelfan) but during basketball season we’ll trot out the Tar Heel Nation weekly to help folks stay caught up.

Tell us about your team this year. What are your expectations for North Carolina this season?

UNC has been a bit head scratching so far. They played two tough road match-ups at App State and at Georgia State and then came home and kind of stalled out after the bye week to Notre Dame. If we’re going to see more of what we just saw then I expect a lot of wacky, close match-ups as we head through conference play. I think they can play better though… especially on defense. 

What are your thoughts on not playing Virginia Tech on an annual basis anymore?

I’m a little disappointed. These games have been a great source of entertainment and hair loss over the years. I knew it was coming but I’m not excited to see divisions go anyway. 

Would you have liked to have seen Virginia Tech added as a permanent rival?

If we had more choices, sure. I think right now this was the best we could get given the circumstances.

UNC has had a lot of success recruiting in Virginia, do you think that has been an effective recruiting strategy for the Tar Heels?

I really do, being that it’s not that far from Chapel Hill but ripe with talent I know Mack Brown and staff have made the region a priority.

What’s your favorite memory from the rivalry?

You’re not going to like this one but that thriller involving Coach Beamer’s last home game. Not just because of that though, that was a great year overall for us. 

What’s your outlook on the future of the ACC?

I’m a bit pessimistic by nature but not great, overall. Same major changes need to happen starting with that TV deal and our overall contributions on the field. We’ll see what the commish and company can do in a few years though. 

What are your expectations for the Virginia Tech game?

I know you’re coming off that tough game against West Virginia but UNC is also coming off a tough home loss to Notre Dame. I expect an entertaining first half to say the least.   

What’s your prediction for the game?

45-31 UNC. I expect a close first half with UNC being able to pull away late at home. 

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