Sons of Game Picks: Week 1 - VT v #10 UNC
It. Is. Go. Time.
It has been nearly two years since the Terror Dome shook. There are some current sophomores who have yet to experience Enter Sandman. But alas, we have made it.
The atmosphere tomorrow is going to be electric. This is quite possibly the most anticipated Enter Sandman in recent memory, with COVID-19 having turned the world upside down since Hokie Nation last came together back in 2019. Emotions will be sky high leading into the 6pm kickoff.
However, while the Hokie faithful are sure to bring the juice, there is still a game to be played and the results are anything but certain.
Legendary Coach Mack Brown and the the #10 UNC Tar Heels come into Lane Stadium with a Heisman-caliber player and potential #1 pick in the NFL draft in QB Sam Howell. However, UNC was decimated by the NFL draft with nearly all of their top offensive talent leaving last year. UNC has recruited extremely well over the past few years, but expecting these inexperienced players to show up in a hostile territory such as Lane Stadium is no small ask.
Trying to stop Howell will be Justin Fuente and the Hokies. Fuente's hot seat is blistering and a loss here could be a bad signal for things to come. However, Justin Hamilton's defense should be much improved and should be favored over the inexperienced UNC receivers. The only way the Hokies win is if they can keep up offensively. Make no mistake, UNC will put up points no matter what, but can the Hokies respond and keep it close? The last time Tech beat a Top 10 opponent at home was 2009. Time to see if that will change.
No more talk. No more speculation. It is time to finally play.
Here are how we see the game going:
Adam Rothe - UNC 35-17
Justin Fuente is still the coach. I think those picking Tech to win 8 or 9 games have forgotten the caveat that Fuente still runs the program, which puts you at a disadvantage going into most games and the Hokies cannot afford any disadvantages going against UNC. Mack Brown and co. will be leading the #10 pre-season ranked team into Lane on Friday evening expecting to win, and win easily. When is the last time Tech beat a Top 10 opponent at home you ask? That would be 2009 against #9 Miami. While UNC lost a lot of talent to the draft, they still have Sam Howell who is arguably the best QB in the country, and a young roster that will re-load with 4 and 5 star talent. If Howell gets going early in this game it could be a blowout as I highly doubt Braxton Burmeister's ability to sling the ball around the yard at the rate that Howell can do it.
That being said, the Hokie defense should be much improved, so I feel that the Hokies can keep it close in the first half, but the Tar Heels will pull away in the second half. Great offense beats good defense every day, and there's no reason to expect the Heels won't be able to score at-will with the potential Heisman candidate running the system. Hokies drop this one and Fuente's hot seat turns up a notch.
Pat Rouleau - Virginia Tech 31-27
Having home-field advantage is a tremendous benefit for the Hokies and I think the opening sequence leading up to Enter Sandman will become one of the most memorable sights to come out of Lane since the 6OT win against Carolina in 2019. Everyone in Lane will be hyped for this game and I think this will be an incredible way to start a weekend, as well as the 2021 season. Let's Go… and Start Jumping.
Grant Mitchell - UNC 35-21
I have faith that Tech can win 8+ games this year, and they most definitely have a free hit against the #10 team in the nation considering the game is in Blacksburg and there is no precedent for either team; however, I do not think that the defense will be gelled enough in week one and will miss the vocal leaders that it lost. I also suspect that the offense will get better as the season goes on but will only be slightly above average in the opening matchup. I am excited to see the energy that the Hokies come out with and do not believe that all is lost if they fall, but if they come out flat in their first action of the season, it is going to be a long year.
Evan Norris - UNC 28-20
My prediction for this game could really go either way. When looking at this matchup it is clear to see that the weaknesses for one team are the strengths for the other, and you can go down the board and see this trend. However, in a primetime showing I would have to give the edge to Sam Howell and the UNC offense to get it done. I think the Hokies will show the CFB world that they aren't the pushover of a team that many may think. Seeing the Hokies keep it close in this one not only fosters some hope going forward in the season, but shows that this unit is much different from the one that got embarrassed in Chapel Hill last year. I think the Virginia Tech defense will do well early on, but will ultimately start losing a firm grip on the UNC offense late.
Joey Robertson - Virginia Tech 31-28
Fuente always does well during opening games and UNC will be without 2 NFL WRs from last season. Burmeister will give UNCs defense a fit. Our D-line will be on top of things pressuring Sam Howell. Also take into account the atmosphere of lane stadium will give the Hokies the edge they need to beat them.
Justin Cates - UNC 34-20
I'm fairly bullish on the Hokies this season and I can see them winning eight or even nine games if things come together and stay that way. That's a tall ask, but the schedule is manageable starting with what may be the most electric and long overdue atmosphere in Lane Stadium in years. Carolina comes to town with top ten hype. I think that's a bit much, but they're quite talented and should be able to handle Tech out of the gate. Sam Howell and a stout o-line will be a tall test for an improved, but unproven defense. The key of course is to hanging around is Tech's offense. I think Braxton Burmeister will surprise people this year. As long as he's on the field, Tech has a chance but maintaining health across the board will be critical. Lack of depth is a concern so the injured list may well determine Tech's level of success as it so often does.
Robert Irby - UNC 35-31
I think this game starts off a bit slow, as both teams will probably look to get things going with their running games initially. But in the second half, this game will heat up as both Howell and Burmeister get comfortable. Ultimately, I think UNC is the better team and the better offense, so I don't see the Hokies keeping up.
Ryan Wilkes - UNC 34-27
I believe the atmosphere will be absolutely insane, but Sam Howell will find his footing mid-second quarter. I can see this being a tie game going into the last UNC drive, and in true Virginia Tech fashion, we will lose a heartbreaker bringing us back to the 2019 Notre Dame game.
Konnor Kilgore - Virginia Tech - 34-31
I feel like Tech is flying under the radar coming into this year. They come in with a solid QB1, a decent committee of running backs, an underrated WR corps, and the best TE in the ACC. Couple that with a good O-Line and a now experienced defense, and Tech should close out games much better this year. I think this will be a game that will be decided in the last five minutes of the 4th quarter. Tech doesn't need Braxton Burmeister to win the game for them, but he does need to hit a few deep balls and keep the turnovers at a minimum. UNC's offense has the potential to put up points with Sam Howell at the helm, but he does not have the weapons he possessed last season. A sold out, raucous Lane Stadium fuels the Hokies to a fast start, and Tech kicks a last second field goal to fend off a second half Tar Heel surge.
Mike McDaniel - Virginia Tech 27-24
North Carolina is certainly good, but they're not without question marks going into the year. Quarterback Sam Howell is the best quarterback in the ACC, but has to find a way to overcome 5000 yards of lost production in the opener. The Tar Heels lost a dynamic duo of 1,000+ yard rushers in Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, and have questions at receiver as well as Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome have both moved on to the NFL. One of the team's leading receiver targets, Beau Corrales, is out for Friday's game due to injury, and another top receiving option, Khafre Brown, is questionable and most certainly won't be 100% going into the match-up.
Virginia Tech's defense wasn't great last year, but also never really had time to jell with a majority of the two-deep in COVID protocol for most of September and October. It got better late in the year against Clemson and Virginia, which is encouraging, but they'll have to be better from the jump to beat a 10th-ranked North Carolina squad in the opener. My brain says to pick the heels, but my gut says to pick the Hokies. I just think there's going to be a special atmosphere at Lane Stadium on Friday night, and I'm not sure that UNC's youngsters will be able to keep up around Sam Howell in a raucous atmosphere in Blacksburg. Tech wins a tight one and surprises college football in Week One.
Pat Finn - Virginia Tech 30-24
Can the VT defense contain the highly skilled Sam Howell? The main objective will be to stop the run, as Ty Chandler will look to replace the production from Javonte Williams & Michael Carter. Sam's got weapons, but they are unproven, and VT's secondary is one of the deepest & most talented on the team. On offense - with our RB production being in question, our WRs are going to need to break out of press-coverage and get opportunities on the outside. The Terror Dome WILL be in full effect and WILL make a difference on Friday night. It's going to be tight from end to end - VT by 6. I yearn for the victory formation celebration.
Billy Ray Mitchell - Virginia Tech 42-35
We can talk stats. We can talk names. We can talk trends. I have done that on the podcast and my teammates here at Sons of Saturday have done the same on the Lock$ or the podcast as well. At the end of the day this is a complete clash of cultures. It's GRIT vs Gucci. This is a team almost everyone on our roster is accustomed to beating. They are everything our program strives to be the opposite of. This is not a Ohio State (2015) or Clemson (2017) that is a big bad bully team. This is a Carolina team that has been told by every media outlet how good they are when they have not done a damn thing. That same team will walk in to an environment most of their young starters have never experienced. Yea. Good luck with that. Tech by a Touchdown.
Grayson Wimbish - UNC 35 - 24
As we get closer and closer to tomorrow, I couldn't be more excited. First off, our uniforms are cold as ice. Typically I haven't gone for the all orange look a day in my life. But the Virginia Tech Football media team sure did make those things look pretty freakin' sweet. In terms of the game itself, I think the Hokies will put on a strong display in the first half. On the back 9, I do worry that the duo of Sam Howell and Josh Downs will gas out our secondary. After switching my score prediction on the podcast this past week, I still think that the Tar Heels will come out with the victory. At this point, it's reverse psychology. I'm sticking with that notion as I hope to ultimately be proven wrong. Like my colleagues here at Sons of Saturday, I'm done talkin' about it. I'm just ready to play the damn game.