North Carolina Tarheels (4-3, 1-4 ATS) at No. 14 Virginia Tech Hokies (5-2, 3-4 ATS) Lane Stadium Blacksburg, V.A. Thursday October 29th, 7:30PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: North Carolina +16.5/Virginia Tech -16.5
The No. 14 ranked Virginia Tech Hokies had a week off after a confidence busting loss to Georgia Tech a few weeks ago as they now trail the Yellow Jackets in the ACC Coastal. The Hokies now get the chance to get the swagger back in Blacksburg when they host the North Carolina Tarheels in a primetime battle this Thursday night. North Carolina is also fresh off a loss in their last outing. However, the North Carolina loss left a very bitter taste to the Tarheels faithful.
UNC took the big Thursday night stage last week with Florida State and controlled the majority of the game leading 24-6 in the 3rd quarter. However, the Tarheels could not stop Seminoles quarterback Christian Ponder who nearly through for 400 yards and allowed Florida State to come back a steal the win 30-27. The Tarheels who were thought to be a big difference maker in the ACC this year remain winless in the ACC despite having one of the better defenses in the nation. The Tarheels look to avenge last week’s collapse against Virginia Tech, but will have to overcome one of the most hostile environments in all of college football.
Entering this Thursday night’s game most would expect this to be a low scoring game, but the ACC has been very unpredictable this year. Still, North Carolina owns one of the top defenses in America and Virginia Tech is a powerful but less explosive offense. Plus the Tarheels offense has been rather poor for most of the season as well. QB T.J. Yates threw 12 for 25 for just 64 total yards last week against a very weak Florida State secondary.
The passing offense has struggled for the most part of the season and that possibly will not change against a talented Hokies defense this Thursday night. However, Yates will need to complete some short passes to establish some ball movement and surely the Tarheels will lay the ball in the hands of tailback Shaun Draughn for the rest of the time. Draughn rushed for 126 yards last week against the Seminoles and has been fairly solid all year for the Tarheels. North Carolina has to find some success on offense if they are to finally get a win in the ACC and Draughn may be their best shot to deliver.
The Virginia Tech offense has improved all year and surprised many in their rather disappointing outing against Georgia Tech. QB Tyrod Taylor is a gifted talent with great speed and is developing into a solid thrower. Taylor completed just 45% of his passes through the first 4 games, but has turned those numbers around completing over 70% of his passes in each of the last 3 games. However, Taylor will be facing one of the best pass defenses in the nation so it will be interesting to see how his arm holds up against a talented secondary.
Even if Taylor does not deliver, the Hokies can still win with their running game.
Running back and freshman Ryan Williams is having a sensational year on the ground. Williams would not even be playing this season if not for the Hokies losing their star in Darren Evans before the season. However, Williams has not let the offense down rushing for an ACC best 834 yards and 10 touchdowns. Williams is carrying the ball for 6 yards per carry. Especially early in the game look for Virginia Tech to really ride Williams until they test the waters against the Tarheels secondary. When Williams is able to move the ball on the ground for the running game it helps open up the rest of the offense. The Hokies have lost 2 of 3 games this season in where Williams did not go over the century mark and he will be the difference maker again Thursday night.
Jay’s Pick - North Carolina will likely stay within the points just because of the likelihood of a low scoring affair here.