UNC Football vs. Virginia Tech: Game info, preview, prediction and more

Oct 3, 2020; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels defensive back Trey Morrison (4) reacts to a play against the Boston College Eagles at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Richins-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 3, 2020; Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels defensive back Trey Morrison (4) reacts to a play against the Boston College Eagles at Alumni Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Richins-USA TODAY Sports /

The UNC Football program returns to the field on Saturday to take on No. 18 Virginia Tech in a matchup of ranked ACC programs

For the first time in 2020, the UNC Football program will play against a ranked opponent as they begin a stretch of six-straight conference games before a bye week.

After opening the season with a win over Syracuse in early September and then Boston College in early October, next up for No. 8 North Carolina is a tough Virginia Tech team that enters this game at No. 19 in the nation. The Hokies have dominated the season series of late, winning four-straight games in the series including two nail-bitters in 2018 and 2019.

The last time these two teams met in Chapel Hill, UNC almost pulled off the upset but allowed a late score by the Hokies to lose. Then in 2019, the two played a crazy overtime game in which the new college football OT rules came into play and UNC dropped the game in six overtimes.

Going into Saturday’s game, both teams are 2-0 on the year and both are 2-0 in conference games as they hope to reach the ACC title game in December. This will be a crucial game for both teams not only in that aspect, but to stay unbeaten and continue to climb the national polls.

Virginia Tech enters the game fresh off a win 38-31 win over Duke, a game they didn’t particularly play well in as quarterback Braxton Burmeister was just 9 of 25 for 163 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The Hokies got a big day on the ground from running back Khalil Herbert who finished with 208 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns.

Duke had no answer for Herbert on the ground and if UNC doesn’t slow him down, it could be another big day for the senior. UNC has been fantastic so far defending the run, allowing just 54 yards per game on the ground. If the Tar Heels can stop the run, they should have a good shot in this game.

The Hokies might be getting a boost at quarterback, however. With Burmeister struggling, we could see quarterback Hendon Hooker on Saturday. He’s was limited in the preseason due to quarantine but is reportedly ready to go for Saturday’s game. It wouldn’t shock us at all to see the Hokies go to Hooker, a Greensboro native that threw for 1,555 yards, 13 touchdowns and 2 interceptions a year ago. That included going 8-for-12 for 127 yards and a touchdown a year ago against UNC when he came in at quarterback.

Hooker has the ability to beat you through the air or with his legs, something we saw in the 2019 matchup between the two teams. It’s safe to say UNC will have some revenge on their minds in this one.

We should also note this will be the first game in 2020 that UNC will allow fans in the stadium for the game. The school is permitting 3,500 tickets for the game with the majority going to students as they will implement social distancing guidelines in the stadium.

Key to Victory for UNC

Slow down Virginia Tech’s offense. We told you about the Hokies run game as they will go up against a stout UNC rush defense. But if the Tar Heels can’t contain the run game and let whoever is at quarterback beat them through the air, it could be a long day for the Tar Heels.

Stopping the run and forcing the Hokies into long-yardage downs will be big. Look for the Tar Heels defense to come out and make a statement on defense early. If they can’t, it could be a long day for them in Chapel Hill.

Something to watch

Virginia Tech’s defense is vulnerable to giving up a lot of yards. They enter this game giving up 398 yards of offense to opposing teams including 259 through the air and 139 on the ground. We have seen glimpses of UNC’s offense turning it on but it hasn’t been consistent yet. That needs to change on Saturday.

Get Sam Howell in a rhythm and let this offense go. They can put up some points against this Hokies defense and if it gets to be a shootout, I like the Tar Heels chances to end their losing streak against VT.

What you need to know

WHAT?  Virginia Tech Hokies (2-0, 2-0 ACC) AT North Carolina Tar Heels (2-0, 2-0 ACC)
WHEN? Saturday, October 10, 12:30 pm ET
WHERE? Kenan Memorial Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina
RADIO? Tar Heels Sports Network
WEATHER? 72 degrees with a chance of rain
PREDICTION? UNC 30, Virginia Tech 27