Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 11/16/11

What better way is there to come off a bye week than to go on the road and play against a Top 10 squad on a Thursday night in a game that will be nationally-televised? And that is exactly what North Carolina (6-4, 2-4 in the ACC) will be doing as they head to Blacksburgh to take on #10 Virginia Tech (9-1, 5-1 in the ACC), with kick off being at 8:00 pm EST on ESPN. For the Tar Heels, who beat the Hokies two years ago at Lane Stadium, this has been called a redemption game or playing the spoilers. For Va Tech, who with a win would head to its fourth league championship game in five years and will have its eighth 10 win season, this game is just as important. Both teams need this game, unfortunately for way different reasons, even more unfortunate for Carolina it that they will be facing a squad that is 23-2 in November when it comes to ACC match ups since joining the conference.

For the home team this is about making sure they get the wins needed to once again compete for the ACC Title Game and a chance at the BCS bowl for its conference, while for the Heels this game is about having a chance to get to the eight wins plateau and possibly a better bowl game. So the question that must be on people’s minds is: can interim head coach Everett Withers get this team up for a game like this one? If so, there could be an upset in the making, if not UNC will be playing in one of the lower tier bowls come December. When you get down to it, the break down of this game is as simple as that, however, how this Carolina team, full of talented players, got to be a so-so team in the ACC is a lot more complicated.

There is no denying that UNC has talent, starting with red shirt freshman Giovani Bernard, who after 14 seasons as brought a 1,000 yards rusher back to Chapel Hill. The starting QB, red shirt sophomore Bryn Renner, has had growing pains throwing way too many interceptions but has also found his receivers 70% of the times, especially senior wide out Dwight Jones (913 yds and 8 TDs on the season), who is going to be playing on Sundays in years to come. Of course the need to watch Renner will be two fold in this game, as he will be watched on how he does as well as he shows any lingering symptoms from his concussion. The Tar Heels’ offensive line is well built, but still, all of this adds up to only six wins, including a shut out loss at the hands of in-state rival N.C. State. The front seven on the defensive side of the ball is also pretty talented, but yet they have given up way too many points this season, while their leader, senior defensive lineman Quinton Coples, as not shown up as most would have thought he would do this season. So the place most would turn to for at least part of the blame, if not all, is the head coach, and I am beginning to go that way myself, especially after some of the comments that the star tailback said after the loss to the Wolfpack.

“I don’t know that it’s being surprised, I think it’s just a matter of not feeling right. I didn’t feel right going into the game. I felt guys were just joking around and not taking this game seriously. I knew guys were just not really focused in.”

Could the Tar Heels pull this off tomorrow night? Yes. In order for that to happen coach Withers has to put together a well balanced attack scheme that will give his young quarterback a chance to excel without feeling the defensive pressure all night long. On the other side of the ball the UNC D has to keep the game close, or else once again the pressure will be on their gunslinger to throw way more than he needs to. Will all of this happen? Most likely not, as UNC has lost 3 of the last 4, has not looked good in the last six games whether winning or losing, while Va Tech is coming off a 37 to 26 win against Georgia Tech and has won the last five games in a row. In Las Vegas the insiders consider the Hokies a 10.5 points favorite and I would have to say that is how I see this game going as the host team takes the game by the final of 35 to 24.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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