Virginia Tech plays the University of North Carolina Tar Heels today in a key ACC matchup early in the season. After a disappointing loss to Georgia Tech two weeks ago, Frank Beamer's team needs a win at UNC if they want to stay in the hunt for an ACC Coastal title.
Keep An Eye On
- The Run Game: It's no secret Offensive Coordinator Scott Loeffler has struggled to establish a consistent ground game since he took over last season. However, last week the Hokies were able to rely on their ground game in the second half to seal the victory against Western Michigan. Will that be a turning point in Loeffler's tenure, or will the running game woes continue this week against ACC competition?
- Running Back Rotation: Freshmen Shai McKenzie was one of Tech's two featured backs before he was injured in late in the game against Western Michigan. Fellow freshmen Marshawn Williams seems poised to receive the majority of the carries down in Chapel Hill, although there's been talk that Trey Edmunds is finally healthy and ready to increase his work load. Seeing how Shane Beamer splits up the carries (and which running back gives him the most production) will help illuminate who will be heading up the rushing attack moving forward.
- Limiting Big Plays: Bud Foster's defense has allowed an uncharacteristically high number of explosive plays this season. Last season, the defense only gave up 44 plays over 20 yards. Through five games this year, Foster's squad has given up 32. Foster is fond of saying that nothing will lose you a game quicker than poor cornerback play, and Donovan Riley and Chuck Clark will need to step up in place of Brandon Facyson (who is out this week and potentially the rest of the season).
- Applying Pressure: The Hokies might be giving up too many big plays this year, but they're also creating a lot of them. Virginia Tech is leading the nation with 21 sacks. The Tar Heels are no slouches in pass protection though, as they are limiting opponents to under two sacks a game. The Virginia Tech defensive line has to deal with some depth issues (especially at the defensive tackle position) but they need to find a way to get in quarterback Marquise William's space. If not, Bud Foster may be forced to blitz and open himself up to big plays in the passing game.
Fork In The Road
The Hokies started their season with a lot of question marks, and almost halfway through the season several of them still need to be answered. The offense has certainly been more productive than last season's, but the large number of turnovers (12 in five games, only 9 teams have turned the ball over more) have limited that unit's effectiveness. Virginia Tech is still causing chaos and creating negative plays on defense, but has been allowing big plays almost as frequently as they're creating them. Virginia Tech has to start ironing out the mental mistakes that have manifested themselves recently if it is going to get back to the ACC Championship game. Frank Beamer "always steady" approach has turned season's around before. We'll find out today if he can pull it off once more.