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UNC Now is your place for Tar Heel sports. Beat writer Andrew Carter has up-to-the-minute news and analysis. Columnist Luke DeCock also contributes. Follow us on Twitter at @_andrewcarter or @accnow.

UNC vs. Virginia Tech: A preview and a prediction

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North Carolina coach Larry Fedora has challenged his team to respond after a disappointing loss against ECU last week. ROBERT WILLETT

ON THE ROAD TO BLACKSBURG -- Riding up the mountain now. North Carolina plays at Virginia Tech on Saturday. Some things to know:

North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech
Kickoff: 12:30, Lane Stadium, Blacksburg
TV/Radio: ACC Network/WTKK 106.1-FM
PPG (UNC/VT): 25.2/23.2
Allowed (UNC/VT ): 32.5/15.8

ABOUT VIRGINIA TECH (4-1, 1-0 ACC)
It hasn’t always been pretty this season for the Hokies but here they are, a factor again in the Coastal Division. Surprised? You probably shouldn’t be. The offense has been average – or worse, at times – but five games in this looks like a vintage Virginia Tech defense. The Hokies rank fourth nationally in total defense, and are allowing averages of 241.2 yards per game and 3.7 yards per play. This is a veteran, experienced defense. Virginia Tech has six senior starters on defense, and five of those six are among the Hokies’ front seven. Virginia Tech has been especially formidable up front, where defensive ends J.R. Collins and James Gayle have combined for 6.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. Overall, the Hokies have sacked opposing quarterbacks 17 times and intercepted 11 passes. The Hokies’ secondary will be among the best UNC faces all season, if not the best. Kendall Fuller, the younger brother of Virginia Tech defensive back Kyle Fuller, has a pair of interceptions. The elder Fuller has broken up six passes and intercepted one. Offensively, it has been a struggle at times. The Hokies are averaging just 328.6 yards per game, and 3.9 yards per rushing attempt. Logan Thomas, the senior quarterback, has thrown six interceptions and is completing about 53 percent of his passes.

ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (1-3, 0-1)
Yes, it’s only early October, but this is basically a must-win for the Tar Heels if they’re to have any hope of winning the Coastal Division. An 0-2 start in conference play wouldn’t come as a huge shock, given the opposition, but it would be magnified because of the shellacking UNC endured against ECU. A loss on Saturday would represent a three-game losing streak, and it’d be fair to question how this team keeps it together going forward. UNC is coming off its worst game under coach Larry Fedora. The Tar Heels made enough mistakes to last half of a season during their 55-31 loss against ECU. What has ailed UNC? Just about everything. The offense hasn’t really found a rhythm in any game all season. The running game has at times been non-existent. Defensively, UNC had 37 missed assignments in the defeat against ECU last weekend and, when the Tar Heels were in a position to make a play, they often failed to do so. This is a team that’s reeling right now, and in desperate need of something good to happen. A victory in Blacksburg would bring an immediate stop to the bleeding, and would likely go a long way towards turning around the season.

3 AND OUT
KEEP AN EYE ON: Virginia Tech cornerback Brandon Facyson. Like Kendall Fuller, Facyson is a freshman who has made an immediate difference in the Hokies’ secondary. Facyson already has four interceptions and he could add to that total – especially if the Hokies pressure Bryn Renner into some rushed throws.

MAGIC NUMBER: 54. That’s how many quarterback hurries Virginia Tech has – an average of more than 10 per game. That doesn’t bode well for a UNC offensive line that has struggled in pass protection.

WHY UNC IS THE UNDERDOG: Several reasons. The simplest: UNC hasn’t been playing well. And Virginia Tech has. Lane Stadium is always difficult on visitors, and the Hokies are coming off a nice victory at Georgia Tech. On paper, UNC matches up poorly in this game.

THREE KEYS FOR UNC
--Avoid a post-ECU hangover. How UNC starts the game on Saturday should tell us a lot about the Tar Heels’ mental state. Will they be sharp? Or will they continue to hang their heads after last week?

--Avoid the meltdown plays on defense. Virginia Tech’s offense has struggled, but the Hokies have shown a quick-strike ability, and even had a long touchdown against Alabama. UNC must force the Hokies to work for their points.

--Don’t give the Hokies a short field. Let’s face it: UNC stands a good chance to turn it over against this defense. At least once. Probably more than once. The Tar Heels need to minimize their mistakes, though.

A HAIKU
What is a Hokie?
A turkey? Some other fowl?
A made-up word bird

AND A PREDICTION
Virginia Tech 24, UNC 17

See you in the press box.

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Well this team played well

Well this team played well enough to win this game.
A big salute to Marquis Williams for playing a very solid game.
I can't say enough about how well he handled himself despite the two interceptions. That is just lack of game experience against one of the best secondarys in the country.
The Defensive front, the linebackers and Jabari Price came to play in the second half and had their best defensive effort of the season.
The usual suspects torpedoed all the great effort,
Penalties and mistakes. I know that in the past three games UNC has had touchdowns called back that could have changed the game because of penalties.
The fumble that led to the final Hokie touchdown was the kicker.
Add our touchdown called back because of the penalty and the fumbled punt return that resulted in a VT score and I believe the Heels win 24-21.
Wow. 1-4 with a kick butt Miami team coming to town.
Will they put it all together and finally win? stayed tuned

optimism

Well, I'm hopeful of course because right now the score is 0-0.
UNC needs a complete game or close to it, to have a chance today. Anything close to the ECU debacle just won't get it.
Go Heels!

Ugghh

The one bright spot:
William's splendid management of the touchdown drive. Nice crisp passes and gamesmanship. I like the multifaceted dimension when he is in there. A bit more speed would be helpful. Running backs run up field.....you will get nothing from running side to side against this VT D.
Now for the D
If I were coach, and thank goodness Im not, I would bench Boston. ANYONE could play that position better than he can. How many times has he been burned for the long pass in the past 3 years. Logan is standing in the end zone and with all the time in the world..wheres the pass rush...calmly tosses an eighty yard strike....The word is out. When you need a big play just throw it behind Boston...even I think I could do it if I could throw the ball that far...
This defensive scheme does not work for this personnel set.
They are way to slow. To much open underneath and when the safeties come up to fill the usual huge gap they get burned for the long one. Not enough up front pressure.
Prediction: 45 to 10

Ugghh

more ughh

Ugghh

ugghhh

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About the blogger

Andrew Carter is the University of North Carolina beat writer for the News & Observer.
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