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THE COLUMN: Virginia at North Carolina Complete Preview

Just two ACC Coastal teams going at it

TIME: 7:30 PM (EST)

DATE: November 2nd, 2019

LOCATION: Kenan Stadium | Chapel Hill, NC


The Lowdown

After last week’s loss, the Cavaliers have now gone 1-3 on the road. Virginia has yet to find a reliable formula to win away, often times plagued by turnovers and an inability to get the offense going. It also didn’t help when the Cavaliers’ defense uncharacteristically struggled against Louisville. After fourth-year linebacker Jordan Mack was ejected, there seemed to be a drop-off for the defense as they weren’t able to come up with stops and big plays. The Cardinals’ upstart offense eventually caught a rhythm in the second half and scored 21 unanswered which ultimately sunk the Hoos.

Before returning home for the rest of the season, Virginia must face one more road test, this time against North Carolina. Despite being 4-4, the Tar Heels have found success both offensively and defensively this year. Namely, they almost beat the No. 1 Clemson Tigers after failing a two-point conversion attempt that would have almost certainly won them the game. Powered by the stellar play of freshman quarterback Sam Howell, the Heels rank 34th in passing yards per game (268). Virginia will go to Chapel Hill as underdogs and will need to contain the play of Howell and the North Carolina wide outs if they are to win the matchup.

Questions, as they have for the whole season, still remain around Virginia’s offense, play calling, and the health of Bryce Perkins. Despite the tumultuous play of lately for Virginia, the rest of the ACC (sans Clemson) has also been very unpredictable. The path to the Coastal Division crown is still there, but a win against North Carolina is basically a nonnegotiable if the Hoos want to be in the driver’s seat.

The Statistics

from Danny Neckel

Turnovers are bad

Category UVA Category UNC
Category UVA Category UNC
Passing Defense 10th (169.1) Passing Offense 34th (268)
Yards Offense 108th (345.3) Yards Defense 57th (381.3)
Turnovers Margin 118th (-0.75) Turnovers Gained 36th (0.38)
3rd Down Defense 18th (30.9%) 3rd Down Offense 101st (35.9%)
Rushing Defense 22nd (112.4) Rushing Offense 69th (166.3)

Hoo’s Hoo?

Virginia Cavaliers

Bryce Perkins, QB

Bryce Perkins has tried to do it all this season and has taken a beating because of his efforts. Every week, it seems that Virginia fans hold their breath after a hard hit on Perkins. Last week, he appeared to injure his knee in the first half but remained in the game. Clearly, Perkins still struggled afterward though. He ended up going 24-for-41 for 233 yards and will need to have better protection against UNC if the Hoos are to steady the offensive ship.

Virginia Cavaliers

Jordan Mack, LB

Due to his ejection from the Louisville game, fourth-year linebacker Jordan Mack will be suspended for half for the North Carolina matchup. Mack is tied at the top of the ACC in sacks, with seven, this season and has made 44 tackles, tied for third-most on the team. Look for true freshman Nick Jackson to start in his spot, who is a promising talent that has already drawn praise from co-defensive coordinator Kelly Poppinga.

Virginia Cavaliers

Ryan Nelson, OL

Virginia’s offensive line woes have been all too apparent this year. Play calling aside, Virginia has seemingly not had the personnel at the o-line. After some reshuffling and injuries, Virginia has struggled to protect Bryce Perkins and establish a run game. The Hoos’ offensive line has given up 26 sacks on Perkins and ranks dead last in rushing yards per game. Nelson and Co. will have to figure something out quick against a surging North Carolina team.

North Carolina Tar Heels

Sam Howell, QB

Freshman quarterback Sam Howell has been stringing together a solid first campaign. So far on the year he has 2,119 passing yards alongside 22 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Howell currently leads the ACC in passing yards and passing touchdowns. Impressively, he is also on track to beat some UNC records for a freshman quarterback. It’ll be an intriguing matchup to watch Howell go up against Virginia’s stout secondary.

North Carolina Tar Heels

Chazz Surratt, LB

One might think it was a typo to list Chazz Surratt as a linebacker. However, the former quarterback switched positions this year with the return of Head Coach Mack Brown. Surratt has been thriving in his new role on the defense and sealed the win with an interception against Duke last week. On the season, Surratt leads the team with 75 total tackles and five sacks. Keep an eye on him this week as he tries to take advantage of Virginia’s shaky offensive line.

North Carolina Tar Heels

Dazz Newsome, WR

Junior wide receiver Dazz Newsome is Sam Howell’s most consistent target. He has 42 receptions for 582 yards and six touchdowns. The most receptions that another Tar Heel receiver has this year is 26. Virginia’s secondary has been fairing decently well without star cornerback Bryce Hall but UNC brings a solid trio of receivers in Newsome, Dyami Brown, and Beau Corrales.


Carolina barbeque?

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Virginia won 31–0 in Richmond, VA