Coming off a much needed win, the Hoos will have to be at their best to take down North Carolina. The Heels come into the game on a five game winning streak tied for the top spot in the ACC Coastal Division. It will be a tall task to defeat North Carolina, a feat not accomplished by Virginia since 2009. However, it is possible. Let's see what it might take.
1) Keep contain on Marquise Williams - This one is virtually impossible, but Virginia's ability to at least slow Williams down will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game. Last week the Hoos were gashed by Syracuse quarterback, Eric Dungey, and unfortunately for Virginia fans, Williams is a lot better with a much better supporting cast. On the season Williams averages 67.5 yards on the ground, and 187.8 yards through the air. The threat of Williams spreads the defense out and opens holes for Elijah Hood who averages 90.8 yards per games, and creates the opportunity for the big play. Speaking of the big play, last year, Williams ran for a 52 yard touchdown, and threw for touchdowns of 57 and 63 yards. Last week, the Virginia defense snapped its streak of 5 games giving up a touchdown pass of 30 yards or more and if the Cavaliers are to find success this week, that will have to continue.
2) Stay creative in the running game - I'll be the first to admit when I am wrong and in this space last week I talked about the need for the Hoos to go pass heavy, as any attempt at a running game this season had been futile. For one week I will back track from that stance as Virginia actually ran the ball effectively last week and faces a team in UNC this week who struggles to stop the run. In fact, last year I thought it was Virginia's abandoning of the run that ultimately cost the Hoos a win (and bowl eligibility) in Charlottesville. As Virginia raced out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, they did it by rushing for 64 yards on 11 carries, an average of 5.8 YPC. The next two drives for some odd reason only featured two running plays on consecutive three and outs, and UNC was able to tie the game. This year UNC is giving up 4.5 YPC, and after last week's showing Virginia should have the personnel to exploit that. It will be key for Steve Fairchild to get all four backs, Taquan Mizzell, Albert Reid, Olamide Zaccheaus, and Jordan Ellis involved in multiple ways.
3) Win (or just don't lose terribly) on Special Teams - Going back to his days as Head Coach of Southern Mississippi, UNC's Larry Fedora has run circles around MIke London on Special Teams. Most Virginia fans will remember the Golden Eagles fake punt from their own end zone which gained 31 yards back in 2011. That play was successful because at the snap the Virginia players had already turned their backs and retreated into coverage. Then last year, Fedora dialed in a on-sides kick which worked because, you guessed it, the Virginia players had already turned their backs and retreated into coverage. Both of those games ended up with one-score outcomes. If Virginia is able to keep it close Special Teams could be the difference. With quality play coming from Ian Frye and Maurice Canady in particular, it will be the little things that will make all the difference.
As will be the case the rest of the way, Virginia needs to play well to finish the season on a high note. A win would be a bonus and get the Hoos that much closer to bowl eligibility.