While North Carolina still has a shot of overtaking Miami (Fla.) and Georgia Tech in the ACC Coastal division, the 68-50 loss to the Yellow Jackets last week stung.
Virginia, on the other hand, is coming off perhaps its most thrilling victory of the season after defeating the Hurricanes in the final seconds on Saturday in Charlottesville.
With the Tar Heels trying to eke their way to the top of the division and the Cavaliers looking to end their season emphatically, don't be surprised if this is a competitive ACC clash on Saturday.
Where: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, Va.
When: Thursday, Nov. 15 at 7:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Betting Line: North Carolina -3.5 (via ScoresAndOdds.com)
What's at Stake?
North Carolina is half a game behind Coastal Division leaders Miami (Fla.) and Georgia Tech in conference play. The Tar Heels lost to Georgia Tech last week but beat Miami on Oct. 13.
With just two games remaining in the regular season, the Tar Heels need this game.
Virginia is far back in the Coastal Division, but has to be feeling good about two straight wins, including a 41-40 thriller against Miami last week.
Injury Report (via USA Today)
TE Sean Fitzpatrick - Undisclosed - Questionable
OT Brennan Williams - Undisclosed - Questionable
DE Tim Jackson - Leg - Questionable
P Miller Snyder - Undisclosed - Questionable
FB Connor Gonet - Undisclosed - Questionable
OT T.J. Leifheit - Ankle - Questionable
LB Darius Lipford - Ankle - Questionable
WR Brian Pomper - Lower Body - Questionable
DE Diamonte Bailey - Illness - Questionable
OT Nick Koutris - Lower Body - Questionable
FB Sammy MacFarlane - Lower Body - Questionable
What They're Saying
North Carolina is still reeling after giving up 68 points against Georgia Tech, leaving coach Larry Fedora to say, "If I would have saw that coming, I probably wouldn't have shown up today," via ESPN.
The good news for North Carolina is that the offense scored 50 points in the highest scoring game in the history of the ACC.
Sophomore running back Giovani Bernard, who accumulated 170 total yards and two touchdowns, said, via the ESPN report:
It's hard to see it from the sideline. I know those (defensive) guys were trying. I know they weren't messing around. We were prepared. They just outplayed us.
Virginia is on the other side of the spectrum after the exciting victory over Miami. That includes junior quarterback Michael Rocco, who went 29-of-37 for 300 yards and four touchdowns in Charlottesville.
Rocco actually lost the starting quarterback job after five games this season, but was given another chance against N.C. State two weeks ago when coach Mike London employed a two-quarterback system that included sophomore Phillip Sims.
Rocco hasn't looked back.
London said, via ESPN:
Michael has done an outstanding job the last couple games. We talk about how selfless he is. He’s a team player. He wants to win. He has a great relationship with Phil (Sims). No one cares about who gets the credit; we just want to win ball games. He has a great understanding of the offense.
North Carolina Player to Watch: Giovani Bernard, RB
Giovani Bernard's performance last week against Georgia Tech certainly wasn't a fluke. For the season, he's rushed for over 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns (7.1 yards per carry) while catching 38 balls for 411 yards and four touchdowns.
The sophomore is picking up right where he left off. He rushed for over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns while racking up 362 receiving yards last season as a freshman.
It doesn't hurt to have a guard like Jonathan Cooper to lead the way, too.
Virginia Player to Watch: Michael Rocco, QB
Rocco's performance last week certainly doesn't bode well for North Carolina's ailing pass defense.
The Tar Heels have allowed 6.8 yards per pass attempt this season, 68th in the country, per CFBStats.com.
The difference is, Miami's pass defense this season has actually been worse than North Carolina's unit, so I certainly don't expect Rocco to have as spectacular a performance this week.
Key Matchup: North Carolina Running Game vs. Virginia Run Defense
What should scare Virginia fans in this matchup is the Cavaliers' run defense, combined with the Tar Heels' running game.
Virginia has allowed 4.16 yards per carry (tied for 66th in the FBS) and 15 rushing touchdowns this season, while North Carolina has averaged 5.19 yards per carry while posting 26 rushing touchdowns.
Bernard could be set for a big game in Charlottesville.
Who will win?
Prediction: North Carolina 40, Virginia 35
I don't see Virginia stopping North Carolina's running game, just like the Cavaliers couldn't stop Duke Johnson and the Hurricanes on the ground last week.
North Carolina also has a better overall offense than Miami's, meaning scoring 40 points, even in Charlottesville, isn't out of the question.