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Late the other night I watched ESPN's A Season On The Brink, a film based on John Feinstein's book chronicling the 1985-86 season he spent with Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers. While I found the film absolutely terrible, lacking in substance and completely omitting roughly half the season, I begun to think about how the title fit the 2012 Hokies. The situation they find themselves in puts them squarely at a crossroads. Do they respond like the Virginia Tech teams of 1995 and 2010? Or do they falter, give up, and have a nightmarish season like the teams of 1997 or 2003? Anything is possible, but as of now, the Hokies fit the bill of that title more than the team for which the book was written for.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels are coming off of a dismantling of the Idaho Vandals 66-0. It was over early, as the Tar Heels scored in the first minute and a half of the game and tallied 28 points in the first quarter alone. Giovani Bernard scored on his only two runs of the game, a 2-yard plunge in the first and a 68-yarder less than five minutes into the fourth quarter. The ACC's best running back had an easy day and an early exit. Starting quarterback Bryn Renner threw for 231 yards on 14-19 passing with 3 touchdowns and 1 interception. Even former Virginia Tech target Marquise Williams got in on the scoring, throwing and rushing for a touchdown, one late in the third and another several minutes later, amassing over 100 yards on the day.
Trends:The Hokies won last year's game against North Carolina 24-21 despite a near Boston College-esque collapse by the Hokies and some pretty questionable calls that benefitted the Hokies. Tech took a 24-7 lead into the fourth quarter, but gave up two North Carolina touchdowns, accumulated only 19 fourth quarter yards and nearly lost the onside kick to Carolina with 2:29 remaining. The Tar Heels are 1-7 against the Hokies since ACC expansion in 2004, with their lone win against the Hokies coming in 2009. Their game against the Hokies will be North Carolina's ACC home opener this season. Tar Heels are 3-5 in ACC home openers since ACC expansion in 2004. The Hokies have twice been the Tar Heels' ACC opener opponent, winning both times, 35-10 in 2006 and 20-17 in 2008. Four of their five losses in ACC home openers since ACC expansion have come against Commonwealth teams. The Tar Heels won their last ACC home opener a year ago, defeating Virginia 28-17.
History Lesson:Virginia Tech has played North Carolina a total of 34 times, nine times under Beamer. Beamer holds a 7-2 record over the Tar Heels, including winning seven out of eight as ACC members. Beamer has never faced first-year Tar Heel head coach Larry Fedora. The Hokies hold an 18-10-6 advantage over the Tar Heels. The series dates back to 1895, when North Carolina beat the Hokies 32-5 in Charlotte. The following information is all provided via Hokiesports.com. According to Hokiesports, four of the last five games in the series have been decided by seven or fewer points. Tech is 13-0 in regular season games in the state of North Carolina since joining the ACC. The Hokies have not lost in Chapel Hill since a 7-0 defeat in 1938. Tech is 27-5 in ACC road games since joining the conference. Tech has not lost a conference road opener since 1962 as a member of the Southern Conference, a streak of 23 games. The Hokies have won nine of their last 10 games in North Carolina, and are 17-2 since 2000. Frank Beamer is 20-5 all-time in the state of North Carolina.
What to Expect
The Tar Heels run a spread offense.
Defensively the Tar Heels run a 4-2-5 scheme.
North Carolina ranks No. 32 nationally in total offense with over 477 yards per game.
The Tar Heels rank No. 23 in passing offense with nearly 305 yards per game and also rank No. 21 nationally in pass efficiency, where they sport a 158.72 passer rating as a team.
The Tar Heels rank No. 53 on the ground with nearly 173 yards per game.
Defensively, the Tar Heels rank No. 16 nationally in total yardage, giving up 296 yards per game. They are also No. 19 in the nation in scoring defense, giving up 14.6 points per game.
The Tar Heels rank No. 38 nationally in total defense. They rank No. 16 nationally in rushing defense, allowing just under 96 yards per game and No. 33 in passing defense, giving up 200 yards per game.
North Carolina is led in the rushing game (although not statistically to this point as he has missed two games) by the ACC's best back, Giovani Bernard. A.J. Blue, a former Hokie recruiting target leads the way with 257 yards and 4 TD's. Bernard has 213 yards and 4 TD's, but is averaging 7 yards per carry and 71 yards per game.
Bryn Renner is putting together another phenomenal passing season, throwing for 1,422 yards and 14 TD's to only 4 INT's so far. His completion percentage has dropped to around 64 percent, but his passer rating has increased, in part due to his drop in interceptions.
The Tar Heels spread the ball around, as four receivers have over 210 yards already, and five have over 198 yards.
Hokies Win If: The offense magically turns a corner, they have more than two first downs in their first 25 minutes, they don't turn the ball over in the red zone, they don't miss tackles, they don't let Bryn Renner complete every pass he throws, they pressure him and Donaldven Manning, Antone Exum, Detrick Bonner, Kendall Fuller and Michael Cole all play much better than they have to this point in the season.
Tar Heels Win If: Renner does not commit turnovers, the offensive line keeps him upright, they pound the ball with Gio Bernard and keep it away from the Hokies and they force the Hokies to become one dimensional and throw by stopping the running game.
Dot-dot-dots: North Carolina will be wearing white helmets as part of a white out. The Hokies and Tar Heels have combined for three of the ACC's four losses to the Big East so far this season. The average score in the series is a 14-11 Virginia Tech advantage. Both teams have been shutout in the series, and there have been multiple 0-0 ties. The Hokies and the Tar Heels share a link in College Football Hall-Of-Famer Hunter Carpenter. Carpenter played for the Hokies from 1900-1903 before attending and playing for North Carolina in 1904. Carpenter returned to play for the Hokies in 1905 (yes, you read that correctly. It was a different time). The most frequent location for hosting the series is Chapel Hill, but do you know what the second-most frequent location is? If you said Blacksburg, you are incorrect. The answer is Richmond. The Hokies have played the Tar Heels nine times in Chapel Hill, seven in Richmond and six in Blacksburg.
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