October 5, 2013

Staff Picks: VT vs UNC

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Last year was an embarrassing loss for Virginia Tech at Chapel Hill that added to an abysmal start for the Hokies. The roles have reversed this season, with North Carolina in a 1-3 start, while Virginia Tech has shot out to a 4-1 start. But will the Hokies continue to impress and take advantage of a reeling Tar Heels team?

We take our shots at calling what will happen at today's 12:30 pm ET kickoff.

Jason Stamm, publisher

Senior quarterback Logan Thomas certainly caught plenty of attention from media members on Monday, when he hobbled to the stage at Virginia Tech's weekly press conference with his right foot in a walking boot. Thomas revealed that he had a sprained bone in his foot, in addition to the strained ab muscle he already had.

Thomas is obviously taking a pounding. Of course, he did bulldoze his way for 58 yards on 16 carries at Georgia Tech, just five days after 58 yards on 23 carries in wind and rain against Marshall.

Thomas insists he's fine and he'll need to be for Virginia Tech to get past North Carolina today. This week, Thomas practiced lightly, plus has add an extra few days from the Hokies' Thursday night game against the Yellow Jackets.

It was in that game that Thomas showed more life than he had all season. He completed his first nine passes, en route to 1 of 25 passing for 221 yards and a touchdown in a 17-10 win. Thomas obviously didn't have gaudy numbers, but for the first time this season, he showed he might finally be getting a grasp of the offense and playing up to his potential.

Virginia Tech's defense was again stellar, though it will have to wait at least another week for the return of senior cornerback Antone Exum from injury. That might be a good thing, not to disrupt freshman cornerback Brandon Facyson and the secondary just yet, plus give them more time to prepare for Exum.

Hopefully, it hasn't been too much of a distraction this week. I don't expect it to, but the real question will be if Thomas can find the same rhythm he did in the first half, when he had that completion streak.

I'm not sure if Thomas can match that, but he'll certainly get the job done against a reeling North Carolina defense that gave up a whopping 55 points to East Carolina last week. The Tar Heels' offense is good, but the Hokies' defense is much better.

Plus, there's the motivating factor for Virginia Tech in getting run over by North Carolina last season 48-34, or as coach Frank Beamer said, "It's never good to get your tail pounded."

PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 27-17

Doug Bowman, senior writer

This is a gut check game for the Tar Heels. They are 1-3, coming off a terrible home loss to East Carolina and playing on the road. The Hokies have to be weary of a team with their backs up against the wall playing desperately. However, defensive coordinator Bud Foster's defense is too strong and playing in front of the home crowd gives the Hokies a big advantage.

Thomas seems to be settling in as the quarterback and is playing against a defense that the Pirates torched last week. The key is going to be getting him off to a good start just like last week against Georgia Tech.

Ultimately, I see the Virginia Tech defense giving Thomas some short fields to work with and the Hokies to win this one by a couple of scores.

PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 23-10

Mike Stancik, staff writer

In last year's 48-34 loss to North Carolina, the Virginia Tech defense allowed a staggering 339 net yards rushing. It's safe to say that the Tarheels won't come anywhere close to that number today.

The Hokies come into the game as the 19th ranked rush D (103 YPG) and UNC averages 100.2 per game in 2013. That will likely put the success of the UNC offense squarely on the shoulders of senior quarterback Bryn Renner

On the other side of the ball, the Tarheel defense ranks 112th (out of 123) in allowing 234 yards per contest thus far. That's not exactly the formula you need to stop a Hokie offense that would like to eat up chunks of clock against a weak run defense and armored with a heavily-improved passing game.

Basically, I see the Hokies establishing a lead early on a methodical touchdown drive or on an easy touchdown set up by a turnover, a la Georgia Tech. If that happens, I don't see this game being close due to the 5th ranked pass defense of Virginia Tech. The offense is able to convert on several scoring drives, and the Hokies produce 30-plus points for the second time this year.

PREDICTION: Virginia Tech 34-17


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