Against Virginia Tech, North Carolina’s True Identity Will Be Revealed
North Carolina (3-2, 0-1) could not possibly be coming into this game feeling better about itself. The Tar Heels have won their last two games by a combined score of 93-6 and haven’t allowed a touchdown in that span. (Of course, they have played East Carolina and Idaho.)
Virginia Tech (3-2, 1-0), meanwhile, has lost two of its last three games to Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster is already salty, but he went on a profanity-laced tirade in support of his defense earlier this week.
The Hokies have history on their side to show that they’ll get out of an early-season slump: In 2010, Virginia Tech lost its first two games to Boise State and James Madison before winning 11 straight, including the ACC Championship. Virginia Tech won the Coastal Division in 2008 after a loss to East Carolina to start the year and in 2007 after the a 48-7 blowout loss at LSU.
Every time it seems like the Hokies are sure to be in the midst of a down year, head coach Frank Beamer and company manage to pull off a Coastal Division title. It doesn’t matter what the Hokies do out of conference. And now? They’re underdogs in this game against a Carolina team that hasn’t seen a team this good since Week 3, and the Hokies are mad.
And really, there’s no telling how good the Tar Heels are. This game will be the best indicator. Their head coach Larry Fedora is afraid to guess who his team really is. “Well just as soon as I say that, then they prove me wrong,” he said. “We are becoming more consistent. Just the way we prepare, we’ve done a nice job of preparing the same way each and every week. Our energy level in practice, our focus, all of those things – we’re going to try to do a great job of focusing on ourselves this week and making sure that we take care of ourselves.”
Virginia Tech’s offense has struggled all year, but Carolina’s defense has had its share of bad games. Virginia Tech’s defense has been maligned for a variety of reasons, but the biggest problem the Hokies have had is time of possession. If the Tar Heels can take care of the ball and keep Virginia Tech going three-and-out, they can win. But if they make mistakes against a salty swarm of Hokie defenders, they’ll be in for a long day.
Quarterback Bryn Renner knows that well. He is a Virginia native, and both of his parents went to Virginia Tech. He says the game isn’t personal – for him, it’s a chance to go up against one of the best defensive coordinators in the game in Bud Foster. “It’s the way he prepares. He tries to put quarterbacks in the biggest bind that he can,” Renner said. “That’s what it is great about this game is when you go up against a great coordinator like himself, you get challenged. It’s all about who prepares more, and he really does a great job of trying to confuse you out there. We’re just looking forward to the challenge.”
Carolina is 0-2 against teams from BCS conferences this year, it’s hard to predict them to win, but they do have a potential x-factor offensively. Tailback Giovani Bernard was out in both games, and while he certainly wasn’t the reason Carolina lost those games, his presence could be what puts the Tar Heels over the top on Saturday.
And if the Tar Heels are a different team with Bernard, then it will give everyone an idea – finally – of just what the potential of this team actually is. Bernard, for his part, is willing to carry Carolina as far as he needs to.
“For me, whenever I touch the ball, I want people to hold their breath. I want people to say ‘ooh’ or ‘ahh’ or whatever,” Bernard said with a grin. “That’s what I want to pride myself on. I want people to feel that. I want people to be afraid of me whenever I’m on the field. If it’s catching the ball out of the backfield, returning punts, kick returns, running the ball, I want the defense or the opponents to have that fear of me, that he could take it all the way.”
Randomness: I could do mascot facts, or moments in history….or I could share a B-movie movie called “Thankskilling” about a murdering turkey that talks. As it turns out, there are no clean clips of that movie, so you’ll have to Google it. But when you start searching for turkey clips on YouTube, it can lead you down the rabbit hole. Or the turkey hole.
I’m sure there’s a Beamer Ball joke here somewhere:
If you want actual football, here’s footage of North Carolina’s only win over Virginia Tech since the Hokies joined the ACC:
And here’s Logan Thomas being Logan Thomas against the 2011 Tar Heel defense:
Prediction: Virginia Tech, 27-20. After going against the classic ACC scenarios last week because they seemed too obvious, I’m going all in on the craziness of the ACC this week. Which means Virginia Tech, which has looked awful against two Big East teams, will suddenly become the dominant Coastal Division force everyone thought it would be. This is much less about the Tar Heels, who have looked much better, and more about the Hokies, who tend to do this.