Things to watch, as Tech preps for Homecoming game versus UNC

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech is celebrating Homecoming this weekend, and the football team is set to take on a struggling North Carolina squad at Lane Stadium.

Tech, ranked No. 14 in both national polls, comes in with a 5-1 record, while the Tar Heels fell to 1-6 following a 20-14 loss to Virginia last Saturday. The Hokies have dominated this series since joining the ACC, having won 10 of the 13 meetings. Seven of the wins have been by a touchdown or more.

Tech knocked off Boston College 23-10 two weeks ago – the Hokies were off last week – but it didn’t play particularly well, committing too many penalties and giving up too many sacks. Hopefully, the extra week of preparation for the Tar Heels results in a focused squad.

Here are some things to watch, as the Hokies and Heels kick it off at 3:30 this afternoon:

Tech’s start – The Hokies are facing a North Carolina team that has lost four straight games and hasn’t won a game in ACC play. The Tar Heels also come in as a beat-up team physically, with an injury list a mile long. In contrast, the Hokies come into this game rested, having taken five days off over the past two weeks.

There isn’t a reason for Tech not to come into this game and grab control from the start. The Hokies are rested, playing in front of a sellout crowd, whereas the Heels come in disappointed and injured – in other words, a perfect recipe for a fast start.

Stop the run – North Carolina features two quarterbacks in freshman Chazz Surratt and graduate transfer Brandon Harris, and both have been inconsistent, so expect the Heels to try and establish the run. Tailback Michael Carter, a freshman, made his first career start and rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns against Virginia last Saturday. The Tar Heels also rushed for 211 yards, marking the third time this season in which they’ve broken past the 200-yard mark.

North Carolina averages nearly 145 yards rushing per game behind a veteran offensive line that features four seniors. The Hokies ranked 31st nationally in rushing defense (121.8 ypg). If Tech can keep North Carolina to that total or less, it figures to be in great shape to win.

Run, run, run – This topic pretty much comes up in every preview, but it is critical to a team’s success in football, and this game is no different. North Carolina gives up almost 230 yards rushing per game, this game represents an opportunity for the Hokies to ramp up a running game that averages nearly 180 yards rushing per game.

The numbers favored the Hokies in their matchup against BC two Saturdays ago, but Tech scuffled along and only rushed for 109. Hopefully, Travon McMillian and a healthy Steven Peoples can get things going Saturday afternoon.

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