Well rested after its bye week, Virginia Tech (5-1, 1-1 ACC) continues its quest to repeat as Coastal division champion when it hosts a wounded North Carolina (1-6, 0-4) opponent that enters the contest on a four-game losing streak.
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Virginia Tech-North Carolina score, live updates
Virginia Tech-North Carolina game information, picks
Date: Saturday, October 21
Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Pick: Virginia Tech 42.2-16.8 (from the OddsShark computer)
Odds: Virginia Tech (-21)
Virginia Tech-North Carolina preview
North Carolina is 2-9 in its last 11 games dating back to last season, going a whopping 0-6 against conference competition. Not only is the postseason irrelevant, but fans might realistically be looking at the first 10-loss year since 2003 (considering they are able to beat West Carolina on Nov. 18).
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech is 8-3 during that time, with two of its losses coming against Clemson — the first of which was in the 2016 ACC Championship Game, and then of course two weeks ago in Blacksburg. The Hokies are ranked No. 19 by both ESPN’s FPI and Football Outsiders’ S&P ratings, and have risen to No. 14 by the Associated Press after a strong first half.
Virginia Tech is a commanding 21-point favorite at home against UNC, and for good reason(s).
For starters, coach Justin Fuente has been pretty solid after the bye in his young career, owning an 8-4 record in such games dating back to his first season as a head coach with Memphis in 2012. In turn, North Carolina has struggled as the underdog with Larry Fedora, posting a 6-18 record since he took over the program in 2012. Furthermore, the ‘Heels are 3-13 against top 25 opposition during his tenure.
You also have to consider recent history. Virginia Tech has dominated the series as of late, winning 10 of the last 13 with an average margin of victory of 14.2 points. That includes last year’s 34-3 blow out win in Chapel Hill, when the Hokies defense forced four turnovers and held UNC to 2 of 14 on third down and 131 total yards of offense.
That brings us to the obvious (and most important) point: once known to be fast, high-scoring and exciting, North Carolina’s offense has sputtered to the tune of 12.0 points over its last four games, dropping it to 11th overall in the ACC (23.7) in that category. LSU quarterback transfer Brandon Harris has been extremely disappointing, completing just under 52 percent of his pass attempts with one touchdown and six interceptions. Freshman Chazz Surratt — who has seen significant action due to Harris’ performance — has looked promising at times, but remains a work in progress.
We’ve seen some crazy things happen in college football before, but in order for the Tar Heels to pull off an impracticable upset, they will need their No. 112-rated passing game (112.6 combined passer efficiency rating) to step up and contribute in a big way. An effective four-quarter showing from whomever is under center combined with a heavy dose of Michael Carter and Jordon Brown — two capable running backs who deserve a higher workload — would give UNC its best chance to compete.
Otherwise, expect the Hokies’ top-10 defense to have its way at the line of scrimmage and possibly earn its third shutout of 2017.
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