North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech Spread Pick 9/3/21

by | Sep 1, 2021 | cfb

North Carolina Tar Heels (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
When: Friday, September 3, 6 p.m.
Where: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.

Point Spread: UNC -5.5/VT +5.5 (Bookmaker)
Total: O/U 64


One side believes it’s truly an ACC contender, while the other is just trying to get back to its high standards. If Virginia Tech doesn’t get itself back in the race in the ACC Coastal, this could be the end of the road for Justin Fuente, who has seen his team go from winning ten games in 2016 to an average of just six over the past three seasons. Not only did Virginia Tech see its long winning streak against Virginia come to an end, but the Hokies followed that up with their first losing season in 27 years, ending their bowl streak.

Things could worsen before they get better for the Hokies because Carolina returns almost all of its defense and believes that it has a real chance to get to the ACC title game for the first time since 2015. The Tar Heels gave Texas A&M a dogfight in the Orange Bowl last season after an eight-win campaign, and they return the ACC’s best passer in Sam Howell. But if the defense doesn’t learn how to stop people, it’s going to be tough for the Heels to get beyond being a good team and reach that level of greatness that being an ACC champion would require.

How the Public is Betting the North Carolina/Virginia Tech Game

Bettors are starting to believe in the defenses a little more than they did at the start of the week, based on the total dropping from 66 to 64 points. The point spread line has held steady with Carolina a 5.5-point favorite.

Injury Concerns

North Carolina:
Wide receiver J.J. Jones (upper body), wide receiver Tylee Craft (lower body), wide receiver Beau Corrales (lower body), and wide receiver Khafre Brown (lower body) are questionable. Linebacker Ethan West (lower body) is out for the season.

Virginia Tech:
Defensive lineman Emmanuel Belmar (concussion), defensive lineman Nigel Simmons (undisclosed), and linebacker Matt Johnson (undisclosed) are questionable. Wide receiver Changa Hodge (Achilles) is out for the season.

When North Carolina Has the Ball

Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton probably still has nightmares about what the Tar Heels did to the Hokies on the ground last season, as Carolina averaged a mind-boggling 9.3 yards per carry on its way to 399 rushing yards and 56 points. The Heels were so effective on the ground that Howell only threw 23 times, his second-lowest number of passing attempts for the year.

That’s the good news for the Heels. The bad news is that Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, the two backs who did the damage against the Hokies a year ago, are both gone. Ty Chandler is instead the main man in the backfield after gaining 463 rushing yards for Tennessee last season, and he might be more effective now that he’s not facing SEC defenses or splitting carries. But with the Heels’ receivers hobbled, Chandler will have a lot of attention focused on him in this opener. Carolina has to replace its top two receivers from last year anyway, and with Corrales and Brown dealing with injuries, Josh Downs is going to have to step up and get on the same page with Howell if the Heels are to get a win here.

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When Virginia Tech Has the Ball

The Hokies got off to a great start last season, winning three of their first four games. But in the fifth game against Wake Forest, things completely fell apart. The Hokies scored just 16 points against the Deacons and were really never the same, losing four of their final five games and falling to the likes of Liberty and Pittsburgh. The key for the Hokies’ offense will be whether Braxton Burmeister is healthy because VT’s other options both transferred out of the program. Last year, Burmeister didn’t throw much, as broken toes kept him out up until the final two games of the season after his benching against Carolina, so this should be a revenge game for him.

Like Carolina, VT ran through the Heels in this game last season. Unlike Carolina, the Hokies have one of those backs returning, as Raheem Blackshear returns as the leading back after being the No. 2 runner a year ago. VT was a much stronger ground team than usual last year, actually averaging more yards on the ground than it did through the air in 2020. Looking back on it, that was probably where things went wrong. Tayvion Robinson has to be more of a factor in the VT offense to give the Hokies a solid aerial assault this season.

Betting Trends

Blacksburg has long been a house of horrors for the Heels, who have just two wins in seven tries against the Hokies at Lane Stadium. The biggest problem for Carolina has been getting the offense going when they make the trek north, as they’ve only topped 30 points one time in seven tries (and that was a six-overtime game). Most of the time, Carolina comes out with 20 or less when they face the Hokies in Blacksburg, and with the Heels’ passing attack hobbled, this could be another low-scoring occurrence. Otherwise, the Hokies are 6-2 ATS against the Heels, and the home team has covered in four straight in the series. These teams are in the same division and face off every season, so unlike some conference trends, this one has plenty of recent data.

Weather Report

If the Hokies have the grass covered up well during the week, it’ll be an ideal night for football. Blacksburg is going to take a pounding of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday as the remnants of Hurricane Ida make their way north, but the rain should end Thursday, and temperatures will start in the 70s at kickoff without a worry of precipitation.

Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread

I like the under here, as I think too many people are focused on what happened last season and forgetting that Carolina and VT are both breaking in a fair amount of new pieces. These teams are likely to keep the ball on the ground for a good chunk of the game, as VT doesn’t trust its passing attack, and Carolina has several of its receivers injured. The difference is, when they try to pass, Carolina has the edge because of Sam Howell, and the Heels should have the edge in the game because of it. I’m taking Carolina here.