Virginia returns from a bye week sporting a six-game losing streak and has to face a North Carolina State squad that shocked Florida State a couple weeks ago. It's the last chance for the Cavaliers to make something out of an otherwise forgettable season.
Things actually started pretty well for Virginia. It opened with two straight wins, including a victory over Penn State that looks a lot better now than it did at the time. Since then, however, everything has fallen apart for the Cavaliers.
NC State has endured a season with several ups and downs, with the most notable up being the aforementioned victory over the Seminoles. The team's high-powered passing attack has kept it in most games, and the Wolfpack will lean heavily on it again on Saturday.
Here's a look at all the key information for tuning into the ACC clash followed by a preview and prediction as both teams look to gain some confidence as the stretch run begins.
Where: Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, N.C.
When: Saturday, Nov. 3 at 12:30 p.m. ET
Watch: ACC Network and ESPN3.com
Listen: WINA 97.5 FM (Virginia) or WRAL 101.5 FM (NC State)
Betting Line: NC State -11 (Vegas Insider)
Injury Report (via USA Today)
Virginia: Bill Schautz (questionable, lower body), Justin Renfrow (questionable, upper body) and Buddy Ruff (questionable, undisclosed)
NC State: Andrew Wallace (questionable, foot)
Key Storyline: Can Virginia end its long losing streak?
After dropping six consecutive contests, the Cavaliers had a chance to regroup last week and now fans will find out which team will show up. Will it be the one that started hot or the one that's struggled for a couple months?
Only time will tell, but one thing's for sure: Virginia's next loss will ensure it can't reach six wins to become bowl eligible, so it's not like the Cavaliers have nothing to play for. They still have an outside chance to make something out of nothing.
NC State is a sizable favorite, though. The Wolfpack are coming off a road loss to rival North Carolina, but have definitely looked like the better of these two teams throughout the season. They certainly have more weapons on offense.
Virginia's chances of cracking the Top 25 vanished weeks ago in the midst of its losing streak. When given the opportunity to make an impact on the voters against a ranked TCU squad in late September, the Cavaliers got blown out.
The Wolfpack gave themselves a glimmer of BCS hope by beating Florida State, but losing to the Tar Heels likely doomed them in that area as well. Winning out, including a victory over Clemson on the road, is the only chance they have now and it's not even a guarantee.
In other words, these teams have probably slipped up too many times to warrant a spot in the BCS rankings this season.
What They Are Saying
Even though Virginia's season hasn't gone according to plan, head coach Mike London hasn't changed his outlook heading into Saturday, based on a report from Michael Phillips of the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
We desperately need to win a game. We want to play and win a game. That's a priority for us. And the who and what and all those things are important for us to answer. We're going to try to put the people, places and things in place to help us win a game.
NC State head coach Tom O'Brien was criticized for his play-calling decision late in the loss to North Carolina, but Luke DeCock of the News Observer reports he stands by his calls.
"We wanted to continue to attack," O’Brien said. "We didn’t think we could sit on a three-point lead. We had been successful throwing the ball the whole time, and we had a chance. We had Underwood running wide open on the boundary and missed it."
Virginia Player To Watch: Phillip Sims
The Cavaliers have struggled at the quarterback position all season. Whether it's been Michael Rocco or Sims, the team hasn't received nearly enough consistent play from its QBs for the offense to produced at the level it needed to.
While Sims has featured flashes of strong play, most notably against Louisiana Tech, he hasn't done it enough to help turn things around. Perhaps the week off will be enough for the sophomore to get things back on track starting Saturday.
The story is the same at every level of football. If a team doesn't have a reliable running game–Virginia doesn't–the burden falls on the quarterback to make the most of the plays. Since that hasn't happened for the Cavaliers, their struggles aren't surprising.
NC State Player To Watch: Quintin Payton
Wolfpack quarterback Mike Glennon likes to spread the ball around quite a bit, but Payton has emerged as his favorite target. The junior wideout leads the team with 34 catches for 603 yards, including two 100-yard performances.
His ability to stretch the field is a crucial aspect of the NC State offense. It does wonders in opening up the underneath passing lanes for Glennon to exploit, and if the defense starts creeping up he will take a shot deep to Payton to keep them honest.
The dynamic wide receiver should be in line for another strong outing against a weak Virginia defense. The Cavaliers are giving up more than 30 points per game and will struggle to contain the Wolfpack attack.
Key Matchup: Cavaliers secondary vs. Wolfpack passing game
Virginia actually ranks third in the ACC in passing yards allowed at just over 200 per game, but that's a deceiving number. The fact opponents have 14 passing touchdowns to just one interception shows they can throw when they need to.
And the Wolfpack will throw a lot. They are averaging more than 300 yards per game through the air and are one of the worst rushing teams in the nation, so the Virginia secondary should be expecting a heavy workload this week.
Aside from Payton, the team's other dangerous option is Bryan Underwood. The sophomore wide receiver has caught at least one touchdown in every game this season despite making just 28 catches. He has a good chance to keep the streak alive.
NC State 27, Virginia 21