North Carolina at Virginia Tech Game Preview
by Matt Fargo
The Hokies opened up as 16.5-point favorites and that number can be had in most places still. Some shops have jumped the number up to -17 and there is a good possibility most will hot that number by gametime.
The early total opened at 44 and was quickly bet down to 42 and that is where most other books opened their total at as well.
There are no significant injuries on the either side.
The weather should not be a factor as there is a slight chance of rain with a temperature reaching a low of 55 degrees.
Thursday House of Horrors
Playing in Blacksburg is always a challenge for the visiting team as Virginia Tech has won 12 consecutive home games with its last home loss coming October 25, 2007 against Boston College. Since 2003, the Hokies are 40-5 straight up and 23-16-1 ATS in lined games.
Playing in this spot has been solid as Virginia Tech is 9-2 all-time on Thursday night ESPN broadcasts at Lane Stadium.
In its five Thursday night home games since joining the ACC, the Hokies are 4-1 and the defense has put together some incredible efforts. In those five games, they have allowed 183 rushing yards on 115 carries for a gaudy average of 36.6 ypg and 1.6 ypc.
The Tar Heels looked like the defense was going to be the deciding factor last week against Florida St. They played well against the run but they were prone to big pass plays in the second half when they weren't able to get pressure on the quarterback.
After holding the Seminoles to 77 yards of offense through seven possessions, quarterback Christian Ponder directed the offense on four straight scoring drives (three touchdowns, one field goal) that totaled 290 yards with a 9.7 yppl. He completed his last 16 passes.
The Tar Heels are still ranked first in the ACC in total defense but a meltdown like last week is something that might take a while to go away.
Defensive Déjà Vu?
The Virginia Tech defense in 2009 looks awfully familiar to that of the 2008 version.
Virginia Tech's defense ranked no better than 33rd in every major category after seven games last year. The Hokies then pulled it together, closed the season with a smothering run, won the ACC Championship and the Orange Bowl and ended up seventh in the country in total defense.
Fast forward to 2009 and the Hokies are 31st nationally in total defense, having mixed in a few defensive duds with a couple great performances.
The defense has allowed 12 rushes of 20 yards or longer. In twice as many games last season, it allowed only 14. In order for the Hokies to even sniff the possibility of the ACC Championship, a defensive resurgence will need to take place once again.
Rushing Numbers Don’t Lie
The team that wins the rushing battle will likely win this matchup and there are some interesting statistics heading into this game.
The Tar Heels defense is ranked second in the ACC in rushing, allowing 102.6 ypg on 2.1 ypc but send them on the road and the numbers skyrocket to 194.5 ypg on 3.7 ypc. The Hokies meanwhile are averaging 203.7 ypg on 4.8 ypc on the year including 259.2 ypg on 5.3 ypc at home.
Last week against the Seminoles, the Tar Heels ran for 238 yards on 5.8 ypc but that may have been an aberration. North Carolina is now averaging 98.0 ypg on 3.6 ypc in conference games which shows how bad it was coming in.
Since the start of the 1999 season, Virginia Tech is 95-10 when outrushing its opponent.
Carolina Road Woes
Since ACC expansion in 2004, the Tar Heels are 1-13 in ACC road games outside of the state of North Carolina and that includes a 0-1 record this season after a 24-7 loss at Georgia Tech.
North Carolina hasn't beaten a ranked opponent on the road since a 38-3 win at Clemson on October 20, 2001 a span of 16 games. Those losses have come by an average of 22.6 ppg.
Virginia Tech is 5-0 against North Carolina since joining the ACC in 2004, and the five-game winning streak matches the longest by either team in the series. The average margin of victory in those five games is 13 ppg but three of those have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Virginia Tech is 16-6 ATS it its last 22 Thursday games and it is 7-2 ATS against a team with a winning record.
Meanwhile the Tar Heels are 1-7 ATS in their last eight games after accumulating more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game.
As for the total, North Carolina is 12-2 to the ‘Under’ against teams averaging 8.5 or more ypa since 1992 while the Hokies are 6-0 to the ‘Under’ in home games against passing teams with a completion rate of 58 percent or more over the last three seasons.
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