Week 5: North Carolina Game Preview
It is gut check time for the Virginia Tech Hokies. Coming off an embarrassing loss to a bitter rival, the Hokies now enter the hardest stretch of their schedule. Tech will be on the road for 3 of their next 4 games and 2 of those games will be against ranked opponents. It all starts with another rival, the North Carolina Tar Heels. This game will tell us a lot about how the rest of the season will go. Virginia Tech needs to come out ready to play on Saturday at 3:30 if they want to stand a chance in this game. UNC comes into this game at 3-1 with their only loss coming last week to Notre Dame by the score of 45-32. Here is a look at UNC's football team and what Virginia Tech needs to do in order to emerge victorious.
UNC Offense: Scheme - Air Raid
This UNC offense is good. Their lowest point total of the season was 32 and that came against an elite Notre Dame defense that held Ohio State to 21. Schematically, they are very similar to West Virginia. They run an air raid offense that likes to spread the defense out with athletic wide receivers. One main difference is how they run the ball. WVU liked to run mostly straight up zone plays. UNC on the other hand likes to pull guards and run split zone schemes with a TE in the formation. They also run roll-out RPOs off of this split zone scheme where the tight end, instead of blocking the end, will run to the flat to be a throwing option for the QB. Freshman QB, Drake Maye has been excellent so far this season, throwing for at least 280 yards in each game along with 16 total touchdown throws. Maye is also good on the move throwing the ball as well as scrambling. Additionally, running back DJ Jones runs well behind his blockers. UNC likes to throw, but thus far they have rushed for almost 200 yards in every game except Notre Dame. That was likely because UNC trailed most of the game against the Irish and were forced to throw. Maye still threw 5 touchdowns in that game.
Once again, Tech's defense will need to play a great game to keep the team in the game. The game plan will be very similar to last week. The real key will be to pressure Maye the same way they did last season against Sam Howell. If they don't, then this game will end up looking a lot like the game against UNC in 2020. WVU was able to run the ball all over Tech last Thursday. The defense played well enough to keep Tech in it late. However, the offense's inability to possess the ball wore out the Hokie's defense. Much of the defensive game plan hinges on the offense's ability to hog the ball.
UNC Defense: Scheme - 4-3
This week is a major opportunity for Virginia Tech's offense to score some points. This UNC defense is very "vanilla". They line up in base most of the time or nickel (4-2-5). They don't blitz very much and they play soft man-to-man most of the time. That might change this week as UNC may feel that a press will be difficult for Tech to beat. It may not matter though because UNC's secondary has been torched this season. Their defensive line consistently gets blown off the line of scrimmage. There is always a lot of talk about how athletic and talented the Tar Heel linebackers and secondary are. But, it doesn't matter when your defensive front is getting pushed back into your lap on almost every play. This is a big reason why North Carolina's secondary has been so bad. The linebackers and safeties have their eyes in the offensive back field because they are always worried about the run. As a result, they are easily fooled by motions, misdirection, and play action fakes. This needs to be the game where we see Tech establish some sort of ground attack. The possible return of Malachi Thomas this week may provide the offense with the boost they need. This defense has also struggled against the no huddle offense. When offenses go quick against this team, they are consistently not lined up and ready at the snap of the ball. A good idea for Virginia Tech might be to go quick to get UNC on the back foot. As mentioned before, Virginia Tech needs to move the ball in order to rest their defense. Winning time of possession will go a long way towards winning this game.
UNC Special Teams:
North Carolina special teams have been good so far. They scored a special teams touchdown on an onside kick against App State that ended up making the difference in that victory for the Tar Heels. They also blocked a field goal against Georgia State. They do also like to rush on punts to block them. This could be cause for concern on Virginia Tech's side as they have had long snapping problems, which could allow for a blocked punt.
This game will look a lot like the West Virginia game. It will be competitive for the first half and into the 3rd quarter. At this point in the season, we know that the Virginia Tech defense will play well enough to keep the team in the game every week. However, we have still yet to see this offense move the ball consistently. North Carolina's defense will be the worst unit they have seen so far. But Virginia Tech is still going to have to score in the 30s to win this game. North Carolina has put up over 30 in every game. There is no reason to believe they won't do it again this week. Tech will fight hard, but North Carolina is too talented for Virginia Tech to handle. Virginia Tech will fall by the score of
Virginia Tech 24
North Carolina 34