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Virginia (2-0) at North Carolina (2-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 17th, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kenan Memorial Stadium (60,000) -- Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Virginia 1-0, North Carolina 2-0. Away Record: Virginia 1-0, North Carolina 0-0. Neutral Record: Virginia 0-0, North Carolina 0-0. Conference Record: Virginia 0-0, North Carolina 0-0. Series Record: North Carolina leads, 57-54-4.
GAME NOTES: The Virginia Cavaliers will swing into Chapel Hill this weekend for an Atlantic Coast Conference clash with the North Carolina Tar Heels in the league opener for both teams.
Virginia is 2-0 for the first time in six years, and is coming off an important 34-31 road win over Indiana last weekend. Kicker Robert Randolph hit a 23-yard field goal as time expired to lift the Cavaliers in that game, which marked the first non-league road win against a BCS-conference school for head coach Mike London. London is in his second year at the helm, and the Cavaliers are blossoming with the pro-style offense, putting up 40 points in the season opening win over William & Mary and 34 points in Bloomington last weekend.
North Carolina was dominant in the opener against James Madison behind quarterback Bryn Renner's record setting day, but turned the ball over five times and struggled to put away Rutgers last week in a sloppy 24-22 win. The Tar Heels haven't started 3-0 since 2009 and haven't won an ACC opener since 2000. - but there is still plenty of belief in Chapel Hill that North Carolina can be a factor in the ACC under interim head coach Everett Withers, who replaced the fired-Butch Davis in late July.
North Carolina owns a 57-54-4 series lead over Virginia, with both schools meeting each other every season since 1919.
Virginia has outscored opponents 74-34 through the first two games of the season, and has registered 856 yards of total offense. Virginia has established a solid repertoire on the ground with Kevin Parks (151 yards, five touchdowns) and Perry Jones (134 yards, one touchdown) through two games, with both of those players combining for 61 carries. The Cavaliers haven't been one of those teams to start slow and finish strong offensively. Virginia has outscored opponents 29 to 3 in the first half, and 45 to 31 in the second half, and have executed perfectly in the red zone (11-of-11 with six touchdowns and five field goals). Quarterback Michael Rocco has completed 36- of-58 passes for 365 yards in two games, and has become the first Cavaliers quarterback to win his first two starts in 15 years.
Virginia allowed 21 fourth-quarter points against Indiana, which almost allowed the Hoosiers to pick up the come-from-behind win. While Virginia statistically benefited from playing William and Mary in the opener, the unit only has only allowed 196 yards rushing in two games and have won the turnover battle by producing five takeaways. The unit has also been a menace in the backfield, registering 16 tackles for loss for minus 57 yards through the first two wins. The standout defensive player for the Cavaliers has been corner Chase Minnifield, who has posted 10 tackles (two TFL), one sack and two pass breakups.
North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner set an ACC record by completing 22 of 23 attempts in the opener against James Madison, which was also his first career start. He showed a more human side against Rutgers last weekend, throwing two interceptions for an offense that turned the ball over five times and nearly gave away a win against the underdog Scarlet Knights. Renner only missed six passes in the Rutgers game, and his current numbers are 42-of-49 (85.7 percent) for 550 yards and three touchdowns. North Carolina is averaging 866 yards of total offense through the first two weeks. Giovani Bernard has been the workhorse on the ground, rushing 25 times for 145 yards and four touchdowns, while Dwight Jones has emerged as Renner's go-to receiver, catching 15 balls for 251 yards and three touchdowns.
Virginia has found some offensive rhythm running the football the last couple of weeks, but they will run into the ACC's best run defense to date (30 yards rushing allowed per game), an unit which held Rutgers to one yard rushing last weekend. The Tar Heels have also had the league's most effective pass rush through two weeks, registering nine sacks for 44 yards. Star defensive end Quinton Coples has two of those sacks, which ranks him fourth among active players in career sacks with 17. North Carolina is allowing just 16 points per game and 455 yards of total offense, and has forced its first two foes to go a combined 8-of-30 on third down.
This old Southern rivalry has relevance again with both of these teams getting off to promising starts in 2011. Virginia clearly wants to ball-control with the run and minimize mistakes from the young Rocco, but North Carolina's defense is legitimate, especially against the run. The Tar Heels' offense will cut down on the mistakes this week, while Renner will keep the hot hand, which spells problems for the Cavaliers.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Carolina 21, Virginal 10
09/14 10:39:16 ET