If Virginia Tech wants to start their conference schedule 2-0, the defense will need to slow down North Carolina’s explosive offense.
On paper, it’s a terrific matchup. North Carolina’s offense ranks 32nd in yards and 27th in scoring, while the Virginia Tech defense ranks 9th in yards allowed and 25th in points allowed.
Another interesting stat — North Carolina’s offense ranks 2nd in the ACC in third down conversions, while Virginia Tech’s defense is 4th in the entire country on third downs.
“Third downs are going to be crucial. I mean, that’s the only way you stay on the field,” said North Carolina Head Coach Larry Fedora. “You’ve got to keep moving the chains to be on the field, so they’re definitely going to come up.”
At the weekly coaches’ teleconference, Fedora praised Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster’s ability to get off the field on third downs by just rushing four guys.
“He does a great job of getting pressure with four guys,” Fedora said. “He’s got four guys who pursue the quarterback pretty relentlessly and he’s been able to put the rest of the guys mostly in coverage, and he’s done a really good job with it.”
This should be the best offense Virginia Tech has faced all season. North Carolina has weapons all over the field, and Virginia Tech Head Coach Justin Fuente believes it all starts with Fedora.
“My take on what they do offensively is, they have a great foundation, in terms of the schemes they run, throwing the football,” Fuente said. “You can tell they’ve repped them into submission. They’ve completely mastered the schemes that they’re running. They may dress them up or have them look different week to week, but they do a great job with their passing game foundation and they’ve got some really good players out there.”
Offensively, Virginia Tech is quite different than last season’s game vs. North Carolina, and Fedora has taken notice.
“Justin (Fuente) does a really good job with the offense,” Fedora said. “They’re very multiple in the things that they do, they have a great plan. I think the quarterback is probably a lot like Marquise (Williams) was last year. He’s a big guy that can run, beat you with his arm and they’ve got good guys, good position guys at every place. He’s opened it up quite a bit. Just makes you spread the field.”
Both offense could end up dealing with pretty poor weather, as Hurricane Matthew makes its way towards the East Coast. There’s a good chance that if the two teams play on Saturday, the weather will be less than ideal.
Virginia Tech has been practicing with wet footballs this week, but Fuente isn’t sure there’s much more he can do to prepare his team for the potential conditions.
“Well, I don’t know that there’s a whole lot we can do,” Fuente said. “We don’t have a lot of control over the weather. We practice outside quite a bit and there’s a fair amount of wind in Blacksburg, particularly in the spring time. We’ve done some work with wet footballs to try and simulate that. It’s something we don’t have a lot of control over and whatever it is, we’ll do our best to adapt.”
Fedora said that his team hasn’t done anything different in practice this week.
“I think we practice enough in the rain that our guys understand what’s expected,” Fedora said. “It’s the wind that you can’t control. It’s the thing you worry about more than anything. We try not to let rain be a factor for us.”
The ACC is still planning on having the two teams play at their regular scheduled date and time, but that could change at any point this week. Despite the conference meeting on Tuesday, and planning to meet again Thursday to discuss moving the game, Fedora told the media on Wednesday he fully expects to play the game at North Carolina on Saturday.