UNC vs. Virginia: Players in Line for Game-Changing Performances

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor INovember 15, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, NC - SEPTEMBER 01:  Giovani Bernard #26 of the North Carolina Tar Heels leaps out of a tackle by Kenton Beal #84 of the Elon Phoenix during play at Kenan Stadium on September 1, 2012 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

It's Thursday. That means it's time to start getting your college football fantasy lineup in order, and if you're lucky, you've got plenty of North Carolina Tar Heels and Virginia Cavaliers on your roster. 

What's that you say? You don't have a college football fantasy team? That's not actually a popular thing?

Well, that's weird. I can't imagine why people betting on kids who are still in school is frowned upon. Nonetheless, tonight's ACC battle between UNC and Virginia is sure to be filled with entertainment and, most importantly, points.

Lots of points. 

The Tar Heels are averaging a stout 40.5 per game and have one of the most dangerously balanced offenses in the country. While Virginia isn't quite equally equipped on that side of the ball, North Carolina hasn't really been stopping teams lately, either. Unless, of course, holding Georgia Tech to 68 points qualifies as "stopping."

So, let's take at gander at what individual skill players are in line for huge nights. 


Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina


The Tar Heels are incredibly balanced. They've thrown the ball 363 times. They've run the ball 387 times. Essentially, they are willing to take whatever the defense gives them.

On Saturday, Virginia will give them the run. The Cavaliers are giving up 4.1 yards per carry, which puts them right in the middle of the ACC. However, they are near the top of the league in passing yards per game allowed, so the Tar Heels would be smart to pound the ground (relevant).

Having sophomore Giovani Bernard will help make that decision even easier.

The 5'10", 205-pound bowling ball has scored in every game he's played this year and found paydirt twice in all but one contest. He's averaging 7.1 yards per carry on the ground  and has even added over 50 yards per game through the air. Oh, and he's decent in the return game, too:

If it weren't for two games missed early in the season, the sophomore, who has over 1,400 total yards and 17 touchdowns, would be getting some talk as a darkhorse Heisman candidate. 

Yeah, I think he can handle Virginia. 


Michael Rocco, QB, Virginia

Virginia really enjoys this whole split-QB thing with Rocco and sophomore Phillip Sims both getting a healthy amount of snaps under center. But when it comes down to it, Rocco is not only going to get more opportunities, but he's been more productive.

The junior has completed 61.5 percent of his throws to Sims' 57.5 and has racked up 7.17 yards per attempt to Sims' 6.72. 

So, while both QBs bring something unique to the table, Rocco, who will get considerably more snaps, is the one worth watching on Thursday night. 

The Tar Heel's secondary has been up-and-down this season. It's giving up a healthy 254.2 yards through the air per game, but it's also made integral plays when necessary: The Heels are the only team in the ACC to have more interceptions (14) than passing touchdowns allowed (12).

Still, Rocco is coming off the best game of his season (29-for-37, 300 yards, four touchdowns, zero interceptions against Miami) and should have a big night at home. 

Whatever happens, I don't suggest missing this inevitable ACC shootout.