Tar Heels Hit Road

Charlottesville, VA - With one of its big offensive playmakers sidelined by a season-ending knee injury, North Carolina is hoping the defense's ability to create scoring opportunities will make up for the loss.

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The No. 18 Tar Heels will be missing star receiver Brandon Tate for the first time in four years on Saturday as they look to snap a 13-game losing streak at Charlottesville in an ACC matchup with Virginia.

Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made North Carolina –5.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 63% of bets for this game have been placed on North Carolina –5.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

North Carolina (5-1, 1-1) hasn't beaten Virginia (3-3, 1-1) on the road since a 17-14 victory in 1981. The Cavaliers won 23-0 in 2006 in the most recent meeting at Charlottesville, though the Tar Heels have not been ranked for a matchup in this series since 1997.

However, they also will take the field without Tate for the first time since 2004. The senior has appeared in every game the team has played since his arrival at Chapel Hill, but his collegiate career ended with a torn ACL and MCL suffered last Saturday in a 29-24 win over Notre Dame.

Tate scored five touchdowns this season and was leading the ACC with 163.7 all-purpose yards per game. He had 376 yards receiving, 143 rushing, 305 on kick returns and 168 on punt returns.

"If (he's) not the most explosive player in college football, he's really close," Tar Heels quarterback Cameron Sexton said. "To replace a kick returner, punt returner and receiver of his caliber, you just can't do it. But we're going to find somebody who's going to play really well in his place."

With North Carolina's biggest playmaker out, the defense will look to alleviate some of the pressure on the offense.

The Tar Heels are tied atop the conference with 18 turnovers forced this season and they caused four in the second half last Saturday, including an interception that was returned for a touchdown and a fumble that led to Sexton's eventual game-winning score.

"(Defensive coordinator Everett Withers) stresses to us all week during practices to just be in the right spots and turnovers will come," defensive tackle Aleric Mullins said. "Just do the little things: 'Don't bite the cheese,' he always says. Just wait for it and the interceptions and picks will come to you."

Even with the loss of Tate, North Carolina has built confidence following back-to-back solid victories. After beating then-No. 24 Connecticut 38-12 on Oct. 4, the Tar Heels won their third straight last Saturday as they knocked off a Notre Dame team which entered with a 4-1 record.

North Carolina is off to its best start since it was 8-0 in 1997, already surpassing its win total from last year's 4-8 season.

"It takes everybody buying in," coach Butch Davis said. "Our kids have got a lot of fight, a lot of perseverance and keep scratching to try and find a way to win."

Virginia is coming off its second straight win, 35-20 over East Carolina last Saturday. Marc Verica was 25-of-32 for 216 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions while Cedric Peerman rushed for 173 yards and two scores.

An increased workload for Peerman appears to have paid off. He's rushed for 283 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries in the last two games after getting only 20 rushing attempts for 96 yards and a touchdown during the Cavaliers' 1-3 start.

Peerman was sidelined for one game this season - a 31-3 loss to Duke - because of an ankle injury, but appears to be healthy now.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again: he is the heart of the team," Verica said. "He makes everything go."

Virginia's win over the Pirates was its third straight at home - all against unranked opponents - since a season-opening 52-7 loss to then-No. 3 Southern California. The Cavaliers defense posted shutouts in their previous two home wins before holding East Carolina to 89 yards rushing - the second time in six games the Pirates were held below 125.

"A lot of guys are stepping up to do their part and that makes this defense special," Virginia linebacker Clint Sintim said.

The Cavaliers have won 15 of the previous 20 meetings with North Carolina.

Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
VIRGINIA is 12-4 against the spread versus N CAROLINA since 1992
VIRGINIA is 11-5 straight up against N CAROLINA since 1992
8 of 11 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
VIRGINIA is 2-0 against the spread versus N CAROLINA over the last 3 seasons 
VIRGINIA is 2-0 straight up against N CAROLINA over the last 3 seasons 
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at VIRGINIA since 1992
VIRGINIA is 8-0 against the spread versus N CAROLINA since 1992
VIRGINIA is 8-0 straight up against N CAROLINA since 1992
4 of 6 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at VIRGINIA over the last 3 seasons.
VIRGINIA is 1-0 against the spread versus N CAROLINA over the last 3 seasons 
VIRGINIA is 1-0 straight up against N CAROLINA over the last 3 seasons 
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
(!) [QB] TJ Yates is expected to miss at least 6 weeks. - Ankle - 09/22/08
[DL] Greg Elleby missed last game %27?%27 - Ankle - 10/04/08
[RB] Keith Payne missed last game %27?%27 - Hand - 10/04/08
(!) [QB] Peter Lalich has been dismissed from team - Legal problems - 09/1
[TE] Joe Torchia missed last game %27?%27 - Shoulder - 10/04/08
[OG] Zak Stair missed last game %27?%27 - Knee - 10/04/08
[DE] Sean Gottschalk is out indefinitely - Undisclosed - 09/28/08
[LB] John Bivens has left the team - None - 09/28/08
[S] Matt Leemhuis missed last game %27?%27 - Thumb - 10/04/08

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Posted: 10/14/08 5:30 PM

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