North Carolina (1-3) at Virginia Tech (4-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 5, 12:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Lane Stadium (66,233) -- Blacksburg, Virginia. Television: ACC Network, ESPN3.com. Home Record: UNC 1-1, VT 2-0. Away Record: UNC 0-2, VT 2-0. Neutral Record: UNC 0-0, VT 0-1. Conference Record: UNC 0-1, VT 1-0. Series Record: Virginia Tech leads, 18-11-6.
GAME NOTES: A pair of Atlantic Coast Conference teams heading in opposite directions meet at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg on Saturday afternoon, as the Virginia Tech Hokies play host to the North Carolina Tar Heels.
UNC has undoubtedly been one of the ACC's biggest disappointments so far, losing three of its first four games, including its conference opener at Georgia Tech a few weeks ago, 28-20. The Tar Heels' low point came last weekend in a matchup with East Carolina, where they were routed in front of the home crowd, 55-31.
Virginia Tech opened its season with a difficult neutral-field battle with No. 1 Alabama, but since losing that contest (35-10) the team has been on fire with four straight wins. After taking a triple-overtime decision from Marshall on Sept. 21 (29-21), the Hokies came back less than a week later to beat Georgia Tech on the road in their ACC opener on Sept. 26, 17-10.
This bout marks the 36th all-time meeting in the series between these two, with Virginia Tech leading, 18-11-6. UNC halted a two-game Hokie winning streak in the series last season with a 48-34 win in Chapel Hill.
After having one of the nation's most potent offenses in 2012 (40.6 ppg), UNC has taken a huge step backward, the team ranking in the bottom half of the ACC in scoring (25.2 ppg) and yardage (397.0 ypg).
Bryn Renner has regressed in his senior season, throwing for 279.2 ypg with seven touchdowns and three interceptions. His .599 completion percentage is well off his career mark of .656.
Eric Ebron is Renner's top target, as he has tallied 17 receptions for 263 yards and a touchdown. Quinshad Davis (13 reception, 204 yards, three TDs) is also active in the passing game.
The Tar Heels average just 3.0 yards per carry this season. A.J. Blue (176 yards) and Romar Morris (169 yards, three TDs) share the load, with Blue being employed on most passing downs (11 receptions, 93 yards).
The UNC defense has not been able to pick up the slack for its underperforming offense. The unit allows opposing teams to score 32.5 ppg while racking up nearly 460 total yards per contest, and the defense has difficulty getting off the field as the team losses the time of possession battle by nearly 10 minutes per game.
Travis Hughes and Jeff Schoettmer share the club lead with 31 tackles apiece. Tre Boston has two of the team's four interceptions, while Norkeithus Otis has 4.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks and two forced fumbles.
As for Virginia Tech, its offense is one of the few in the ACC that has performed worse than UNC's, as it ranks 11th in the league in both scoring (23.2 ppg) and yards (328.6 ypg). It makes good on only 30 percent of its third-down conversion attempts and has scored touchdowns on just 50 percent of its trips to the red zone.
Logan Thomas has been relatively ineffective under center, completing less than 53 percent of his passes for 919 yards while throwing more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five). The signal caller is able to make up for his passing woes somewhat with his legs, as he has added three rushing touchdowns.
Trey Edmunds is a workhorse out the backfield, as his 84 carries are four times as many as any other running back. He has racked up 353 yards and three touchdowns.
Demitri Knowles has 20 receptions for 210 yards, both of which pace the team, while three of D.J. Coles' (158 yards) nine catches have resulted in touchdowns.
Make no mistake, Virginia Tech is sitting at 3-1 due to its outstanding defense. The unit ranks fourth in the nation in total defense (241.2 ypg), 21st in scoring defense (15.8 ypg), and tied for fifth in turnovers forced (15).
J.R. Collins is one of the nation's premiere pass rushers, having logged 6.0 TFL, 4.5 sacks and 15 QB hurries. Jack Tyler, Tariq Edwards, Derrick Hopkins, Luther Maddy, James Gayle and Nigel Williams all have double-digit tackles as well.
Freshman Brandon Facyson is an outstanding playmaker in the secondary, having already recorded four interceptions, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and seven passes defended. Detrick Bonner and Kendall Fuller have added two picks each for the ball-hawking secondary.
Heading out on the road to face a stout Virginia Tech defense is a recipe for disaster for the struggling Tar Heels. Expect the Hokies to force a few more turnovers in this one as they move to 2-0 in conference play.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Virginia Tech 24, North Carolina 14
10/02 10:36:40 ET