Coming into the season, before the games had been played or recruiting violations had occurred, this was slated to be a huge ACC matchup in the middle of November: The perennial ACC power in Virginia Tech would travel to Chapel Hill to take on the surging program of North Carolina.
Now that November has arrived, the game isn't carrying much of a punch because of two disappointing losses for the Hokies in September and a number of suspended players for the Tar Heels.
If the Hokies win on Saturday, North Carolina will be eliminated from contention for the division title and the Hokies could clinch the division if Georgia Tech were to beat Miami; if not, the Hokies can take care of it themselves the following week against Miami.
That being said, North Carolina is still a tough team. Nobody's really sure who's to fault for all of the violations the program is undergoing, but Butch Davis has done a phenomenal job managing the situation.
That doesn't mean he isn't the one to blame for all of the problems, but that remains to be seen.
The Tar Heels are coming off a big win against Florida State on the road last week, and the Hokies have yet another comeback victory to add to their resume after beating Georgia Tech last Thursday night.
Both teams will be without two key players this weekend as well: North Carolina running back Johnny White, who leads the team in rushing with 720 yards, is out for the rest of the season after breaking his clavicle bone; the Hokies have lost star running back and returner David Wilson, who has mono.
Both players will be missed, but the bigger loss has to be White for North Carolina. Yes, the Hokies will miss Wilson on kickoffs, and leading return man from last year Dyrell Roberts is also injured, but when your leading rusher goes down, that's hard to replace.
However, the Tar Heels do have a proven commodity in Shaun Draughn so running the ball shouldn't be a huge problem. T.J. Yates is coming off a great performance against the Seminoles, and he's had a very good season so far. Yates has thrown for more than 2,300 yards with 15 touchdowns and four picks.
North Carolina is averaging 275 yards a game through the air and 124 yards on the ground. The Hokies defense is not what it has been in the past, so the Tar Heels should have a lot of success throwing the ball. The secondary has been getting better for the Hokies, but it's still suspect at times.
The Hokies are led by senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor. He leads the team in rushing with 584 yards and has thrown for over 1,700 yards, 16 touchdowns and four interceptions.
However, the Hokies need to find an identity running the ball. With Wilson out, it may be easier to manage the backfield of Darren Evans and Ryan Williams. Evans will likely start the game, but we should see Williams get a number of carries.
For whatever reason, Williams wasn't used in the second half against Georgia Tech. He looked very good in limited action in the first half and scored a touchdown. You could definitely tell that he had his explosiveness back.
If the Hokies can finally get Williams going after struggling with a hamstring injury all year, they're going to be tough to beat.
Virginia Tech is 5-1 against UNC since joining the ACC in 2004, with their only loss coming to the Tar Heels last year. The last two games have been decided by three points, with a score of 20-17.
Expect this game to be close as well. There's still an outside chance the Tar Heels can make it to the ACC championship game and they're playing the best team in the ACC, which should provide them with extra motivation, if they needed any.
However, the Hokies are the better team and after the first two games of the year, Tech has found ways to win, even when they've been down by two touchdowns.
Look for Virginia Tech to get down early and come back to win for the fourth time this year. There should be a few more points scored in this one than the last two years.
The Hokies are favored by four, but it will likely come down to a field goal late.
Virginia Tech 30, North Carolina 27
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