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Virginia Tech football: A closer look at the North Carolina Tar Heels

The Hokies lead the all-time series 22-12-6.

North Carolina v Virginia Tech
The Hokies celebrating a turnover in last season’s win over UNC
Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

The Virginia Tech Hokies (3-2, 2-0) are back in action on Saturday night as they travel south to the ACC rival, North Carolina (1-3, 1-1). The Hokies, fresh off a disappointing loss to Notre Dame, face a UNC team that was blown out by Miami last week.

It’s been another turbulent season for head coach Larry Fedora and the Tar Heels. UNC has struggled at the quarterback position and Chazz Surratt, Carolina’s starting quarterback who made his season debut last week after a four-game suspension to begin the season, is now out for the season with a wrist injury. That means the Hokies will probably see junior Nathan Elliott on Saturday night. On the season, Elliott has completed 58 percent of his passes for 773 yards, three touchdowns and four interceptions.

Those numbers don’t exactly inspire confidence in UNC’s quarterback position. But to be fair, Surratt was just four of 10 with three interceptions in his debut last week. For a Hokies’ squad trying to establish an identity, North Carolina could be the right opponent at the right time.

Defensively, the Tar Heels are allowing 386 total yards per game. That’s good for No. 71 in the country. UNC has given up 41 points to East Carolina, 35 to Pitt and 47 to Miami. Overall, the Tar Heels allow just under 37 points per game. The Heels’ lone win came against the aforementioned Pitt Panthers in a shootout last month in Chapel Hill.

North Carolina is one of the worst teams in the FBS at getting off the field on third down. Opponents convert almost 45 percent of the time on the third down. The Hokies are among the top 50 in third-down conversions on offense. That’s something to watch this weekend.

They call third down the ‘money down’ and rightfully so, and UNC is even worse on offense. Out of 129 FBS teams, the Heels rank No. 127 in third-down offense. A big part of that is the issues under center. The Hokies need to get plenty of pressure on Elliott Saturday night and keep this trend going. It makes things much easier for quarterback Ryan Willis and the offense. One area where Carolina has done well is protecting the quarterback. The Tar Heels have only allowed four sacks on the season.

Two names to watch on offense for UNC are junior running back Antonio Williams and sophomore receiver Dazz Newsome. Williams has only rushed for 281 yards through four games, but he had two big games and is averaging 6.5 yards per attempt. He’s the key for North Carolina offense.

If Newsome’s name sounds familiar it is because his father, Myron, played for the Hokies in the 90s while his older brother, Deon, recently wrapped up his career in Blacksburg. Deon played both offense and defense during his time with the Hokies. Dazz has caught 13 passes on the season and should be more heavily featured in this struggling offense.

Virginia Tech is 22-12-6 all-time against North Carolina. This series actually dates all the way back to 1895 when UNC won the first meeting by an oddball score of 32-5. Among their six ties, four of them ended with the score deadlocked at zero. Since entering the ACC back in 2004, VT holds an 11-3 advantage over the Tar Heels. The Heels last won in 2015, in Frank Beamer’s last home game in Blacksburg.