NC at VA Tech Preview
Blacksburg, VA - Virginia Tech's hopes of getting back into the national championship picture appear to be over, but a chance to reach a third straight ACC title game is still in play.
North Carolina, meanwhile, may be hard-pressed to even make a bowl game.
The 14th-ranked Hokies look to bounce back from their first conference loss Thursday night when they host the disappointing Tar Heels, who are still seeking a league win after tumbling from their preseason Top 25 ranking.
Oddsmakers from online sports book SBGGLOBAL.com have made Virginia Tech –16.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Thursday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 52% of bets for this game have been placed on Virginia Tech –16.5 (View College Football bet percentages).
Virginia Tech (5-2, 3-1) lost its season opener to current-No. 2 Alabama but looked like a possible BCS title contender in winning five in a row from there, including a 31-7 rout of then-No. 9 Miami on Sept. 26.
That streak jumped the Hokies to No. 4 in the Top 25 heading into their most recent game, a showdown at 19th-ranked Georgia Tech on Oct. 17, but they lost 28-23. Virginia Tech held its previous three opponents to 142 yards rushing, but the spread-option offense of the Yellow Jackets had 309 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
"What happened out there wasn't because of lack of effort," coach Frank Beamer said. "Now is the time to come back and let's go get the next one. There's a lot of football to be played."
Virginia Tech is one of four teams in the ACC Coastal Division with one loss, joining Duke, Virginia and Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets already have played six conference games, meaning the Hokies need an upset by either Wake Forest or Duke if they're to have any chance of reaching Tampa on Dec. 5 to play for a third consecutive conference title.
Virginia Tech, of course, will have to win its remaining four ACC games as well, and that may depend upon which version of Tyrod Taylor - fourth nationally in passer rating (159.7) - shows up each week.
The much-maligned junior quarterback had one interception all season before throwing two against Georgia Tech, but he seems to be making strides as a passer. Taylor has averaged 204.0 yards through the air in his past three games with five touchdown passes.
Taylor's job has been made easier by the emergence of redshirt freshman tailback Ryan Williams, who has rushed for 100 yards or more in five of the Hokies' past six games.
Both Taylor and Williams may find yards hard to come by Thursday against the Tar Heels (4-3, 0-3), who have the nation's seventh-ranked defense but have lost three of four.
North Carolina began the season ranked No. 21, its first preseason appearance in the Top 25 since 1998, but its offense made sure that ranking wouldn't last. The Tar Heels averaged 164.0 yards and totaled 10 points in losses to Georgia Tech and Virginia, then looked sloppy again in a 42-12 victory over Football Championship Subdivision foe Georgia Southern.
The offense was much better last Thursday against Florida State, totaling 333 yards - 238 on the ground - but the Tar Heels blew an 18-point lead in the second half to lose 30-27.
"It's a little bit of a wake-up call for the defense," coach Butch Davis said. "Reputations and rankings and stats and all that stuff is somewhat insignificant. You've got to play."
It's been the offense that's burned the Tar Heels in their meetings against Virginia Tech since the Hokies joined the ACC. They've averaged 274.6 yards and 12.8 points in losing all five matchups.
Last season, however, Virginia Tech needed to rally to beat North Carolina 20-17 in Chapel Hill. Tar Heels quarterback T.J. Yates was 11 of 18 for 181 yards and a touchdown while Taylor threw for 125 yards and two interceptions, but Yates got hurt early in the fourth quarter and backup Mike Paulus' two INTs helped the Hokies come back to win.
Yates, who threw four interceptions in seven games last season as a sophomore, already has eight this year.
North Carolina hasn't beaten a ranked opponent on the road since a 38-3 win at Clemson on Oct. 20, 2001.
Posted: 10/13/09 10:00AM ET