Can UNC Football Beat Virginia For the Fifth Straight Year?


The North Carolina Tar Heels will travel to Charlottesville on October 25th to take on the Virginia Cavaliers.  This game is sandwiched between two very difficult games for the UNC football team, coming a week after playing Georgia Tech and a week before playing at Miami.  In theory, the Virginia game should provide a much-needed break for the Tar Heels and an easy win.

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Virginia Scouting Report

The Virginia Cavaliers are not known for their football team.  They have been the perennial punching bags in the ACC the for the last six seasons, having just one winning season in that span (2011).  Their record since 2007 is 26-47, including a dismal 13-35 ACC record.  Last season, UVa won 2 games: a three-point win over Brigham Young  and a blow-out of the Virginia Military Institute.  They were not able to muster a single win in conference play.

Since the Cavs and Heels are both in the Coastal Division, the teams play each other every season.  Carolina has won the last four meetings, including beating Virginia 45-14 last year (see the video below for highlights of that game).

Last season, Virginia’s offense was balanced (489 rushing attempts to 506 passing), yet ineffective.  The Cavaliers averaged just 19.8 points a game, and that would have been even worse had they not scored 45 points against the Virginia Military Institute.

One of the few bright spots for the ‘Hoos was junior running back Kevin Parks, who gained over 1,000 yards on the ground last

Nov 9, 2013; Virginia Cavaliers running back Kevin Parks (25) scores a touchdown in last year’s game against North Carolina. The Heels defeated the Cavaliers 45-14 at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

season.  Parks is Virginia’s best offensive threat, and was recognized by a 2nd team all-ACC selection in 2013 and was recently named to the Doak Walker Award preseason watch list for the nation’s best running back.

In the ACC preseason coaches poll, Virginia was picked to finish last in the Coastal Division, and has them ranked 11th out of 14 teams in the league heading into this season.  Not much is expected of the Cavs in the 2014 year.

Three Keys to Carolina Victory

1. Score First.  Carolina is Virginia’s fourth ACC contest of the year.  By the time these two teams meet, UVa will have had to play Louisville, Pittsburgh and Duke.  In the ESPN rankings, these three teams were all ranked among the top half of ACC teams, so it is very possible (if not likely) that Virginia will be 0-3 when the Tar Heels come to town.  If this happens, Virginia would be heading into the game on a thirteen game ACC losing streak.  This can be very disheartening for a team, and if Carolina can quickly build a lead, the Cavaliers may not be able to rebound and put up much of a fight.

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2. Don’t have a repeat of the 2012 loss to Wake Forest.  The contest against Virginia has all the makings of a trap game since Carolina is playing against an inferior opponent in between two big games.  In 2012, North Carolina played against a Wake Forest team who won just 3 games in the ACC and was not nearly as good as the Heels (who would have won the Coastal Division had they been eligible).  However, the game came right after an easy win against Elon and immediately before what promised to be a tough battle against a nationally ranked Louisville team.  UNC came out flat, and Wake beat them with a late touchdown.

While the game against Virginia will be under different circumstances (Carolina was without Gio Bernard for the game against Wake Forest, for example), the Heels must apply the lessons they learned two years ago.  They have to take the game seriously, and be prepared for a motivated Virginia team, eager to end the 13 game losing streak.

Oct 13, 2012; Miami, FL, USA; Travis Hughes and the rest of the North Carolina Tar Heels linebacking corps will play an important role in containing Virginia running back Kevin Parks. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

3.  Contain Kevin Parks.  Parks is definitely Virginia’s best offensive player and could wreak havoc against Carolina’s defense, which struggled at times last year.  Parks went to high school in North Carolina and re-wrote the record books, setting multiple Carolina career and single-season records and recorded the 3rd most career rushing yards in national history.  Yet, he was not heavily recruited by most ACC schools, a fact which he uses as motivation.  He will likely be especially motivated against UNC since he is from North Carolina.

When the Heels play Virginia, they can’t let Parks beat them.  If they can control Parks, UNC will force Virginia to resort to using their passing game, which is led by quarterback David Watford.  As a sophomore last year, Watford completed a respectable 244 passes for over 2,00 yards.  However, his 57.1 completion percentage ranked 95th out of 130 FBS quarterbacks, and his 8 touchdowns to 15 interceptions leaves a lot to be desired.  

 “People always doubted me, and that’s something I’m used to. I always use it as motivation when I’m working out.” —Kevin Parks

Watford does not provide nearly as big a threat as Parks, and I don’t think he’d be able to keep Virginia in the game if he does’t have Parks’ support.


North Carolina is definitely the better team in this match-up.  If they play the way they are capable of playing (and the way they played in the second half of last season), they will win.  The only question is whether they will be worn out after playing a fast-paced Georgia Tech team, or too focused on avenging last season’s disappointing loss to Miami at home.  I don’t think that either will prevent the Heels from beating Virginia.

Score: North Carolina 35, Virginia 17   [polldaddy poll=”8254833″]