2009 Keys to the Game and Matchups to Watch: North Carolina

With the Coastal Division title no longer in Virginia Tech’s control after
the loss to Georgia Tech, the Hokies must maintain focus against a young, but
talented, North Carolina squad. Tech needs to forget about chop blocks and
crack-back blocks and concentrate on a dangerous UNC team. Injuries and youth
have limited the offensive effectiveness of the Tar Heels, but UNC’s defense
ranks as one of the best in the nation, so the Hokies better come ready to play.

Hopefully, the Thursday night atmosphere in Lane Stadium will keep Tech
focused. North Carolina has been disappointing thus far with an 0-3 conference
record, but the Hokies had better not underestimate this opponent. The Tar
Heels’ problems this year have more to do with youth – only three seniors
started against Florida State last Thursday night – and an inordinate number of
offensive injuries, including five starters missing time this year. Talent is
certainly not an issue, particularly on defense.

North Carolina has eight defensive starters who will merit all-conference
consideration this year. In my opinion, UNC has the best defense in the ACC this
year. Only two teams have moved the ball on the Tar Heels – Georgia Tech and
Florida State. The Hokies certainly understand the problems that the Yellow
Jackets’ offense presents, and UNC’s offense was not able to hold the ball
enough to give the Heels’ defense a rest. FSU was able to break off some big
passing plays, but no other team has passed for even 200 yards against UNC.

On the other hand, North Carolina probably has the worst offense in the ACC
this year. Connecticut, Georgia Tech, and Virginia completely shut down UNC’s
rushing attack, though the Heels did show some life on the ground against FSU’s
porous defense. The Tar Heels’ passing game has also been inconsistent, with an
inexperienced line forcing quarterback T.J. Yates (#13, 6-3.5, 220, 5.05, r-Jr.)
to often scramble, which certainly is not his game. Their receivers are all
first or second-year players, so mistakes and indecision are commonplace. In
short, UNC’s offense looks eerily similar to the Hokies’ offense from last year
with Sean Glennon at the helm.