College Football Betting Odds, Predictions for North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech: The Top Total Pick for Friday
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images. Pictured: Storm Duck.
College Football Week 1 Betting Odds
North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech
The ACC Coastal Division fielded seven different teams in seven straight years for the ACC Championship Game before the pandemic.
North Carolina last won the Coastal in 2015, while Virginia Tech took home the ring in 2016. This is the one division in all of FBS that has the biggest blowouts and plenty of underdog victories. Although the division is a crapshoot, these two teams are heading in different directions.
Press conferences are assembled when a coaching regime ends, but Virginia Tech held one at the end of the 2020 season to confirm Justin Fuentes is still the coach.
The days of Beamer ball with elite defense and special teams are no longer a part of the Hokies program. North Carolina is headed in a different direction, led by head coach Mack Brown and Heisman hopeful quarterback Sam Howell.
Remnants of Hurricane Ida should be well past Blacksburg before these two teams kick off ACC play.
This may be the season the ACC finally has a shake-up at the top.
The Tar Heels were shut out in the second half against playoff-bound Notre Dame, but a pair of field-goal losses to Virginia and Florida State sent North Carolina to the Orange Bowl. Per TARP, Brown returns the national average of 76% on both sides of the ball but loses key explosive elements on offense.
This was a top-10 offense in terms of Success Rate and Finishing Drives, two statistics that should continue with the return of Howell under coordinator Phil Longo.
On the defensive side, coordinator Jay Bateman returns looking for improved efficiency from a unit that loses just two tacklers out of the top 20.
With no Clemson on the schedule, while playing host to Miami later in the season, the Tar Heels are expected to give the Tigers a challenge for the ACC.
Tar Heels Offense
The scheme for the Heels is not expected to change, as Longo has long coached successful uptempo offenses since his days at Ole Miss and the current FCS champions in Sam Houston State.
North Carolina runs exclusively out of the 11 formations no matter the down or distance with a tendency to move toward the pass on 53% of snaps.
Howell led an air attack that ranked 11th in Passing Success Rate and eighth in Finishing Drives.
While the offensive line returns every snap from 2020, there must be improvements made with a Sacks Allowed rank outside the top 100. Specifically, Asim Richards and Jordan Tucker are both at the tackle positions and allowed pressure on 7% of dropbacks.
Howell will be looking for new explosive targets after the departure of Dazz Newsome, Dyami Brown, Michael Carter and Javonte Williams.
— Tar Heel Tapes (@TarHeelTapes) October 3, 2020
Wide receiver Khafre Brown will lead a group of talented targets shy of experience. Brown was one of the most elusive targets for the Heels in 2020, averaging 11.3 yards after catch. The redshirt freshman ranked 13th of all receivers with 20 targets in NFL rating, per PFF.
Running back Ty Chandler transfers in from Tennessee, where the senior posted 15 missed tackles in just 100 rushing attempts. More importantly, out of those 100 attempts, Chandler converted 24 first downs and will serve as an excellent complementary piece to Longo’s air attack.
UNC meet your new RB1
Ty Chandler + Sam Howell in the backfield this season 🔥
— PFF College (@PFF_College) August 6, 2021
Tar Heels Defense
North Carolina brought in Bateman in 2019 from Army to create a defense that could improve against both the pass and the rush.
The Tar Heels have primarily worked out of a 2-5-4 and 2-4-5 defense through the past two years, generating top-25 marks in Sack Rate but lagging efficiency numbers against the rush.
A rank of 104th in Line Yards makes North Carolina a bend-don’t-break system, but a Finishing Drives rank outside the top 75 proves the defense needs better red zone play.
The secondary is one of the better units in the ACC with the returns of cornerbacks Storm Duck and Tony Grimes. Safety Trey Morrison led the team in pass breakups, but the defense comes back to being able to stop the rush.
Morrison recorded 32 tackles on the season but missed a whopping 17. Those issues were also present in linebackers Jeremiah Gemmel and Tomon Fox, who combined for 21 missed tackles.
Teams with a strong rushing attack can extend clock and keep the potent Tar Heels offense off the field.
There may not have been a bigger funnel for the transfer portal than Blacksburg, with the exception of quarterback Hendon Hooker’s landing spot at Tennessee. Quarterback Quincy Patterson also transfers to North Dakota State, leaving Braxton Burmeister as the default signal-caller under center.
The biggest loss may be running back and special teams extraordinaire Khalil Herbert.
Justin Hamilton was promoted from coaching the secondary to defensive coordinator after the retirement of Bud Foster. The move has yet to produce any similarities to the Foster era. From a revolving door of transfers and COVID-19, the Hokies posted numbers outside the top 100 in Defensive Line Yards and Finishing Drives.
The fear associated with an “Enter Sandman” introduction at Lane Stadium is no longer associated with this defense.
Burmeister has had his moments over the years under center for the Hokies and previously at Oregon. In 2020, the junior posted the best numbers of his career with five big-time throws and two turnover-worthy plays. The issue is those statistics were built solely against Duke.
Throwing out the results of the Blue Devils game last season, Burmeister’s ratio is a single big-time throw to 11 turnover-worthy plays. The good news is that the quarterback owns the ability to run.
— BFISH (@BFISH804) September 30, 2020
Burmeister had 181 yards on designed runs and another 48 through scrambles on 32 attempts. There are 15 missed tackles in his career under center, so there will be chances to catch North Carolina on designed plays.
Keeping a clean pocket may be an issue for a patched-up offensive line, as Burmeister had a 65% completion rate in a clean pocket and 34% when pressured.
While the running back stable is light in the experience department, the Hokies do return their top passing three targets in Tayvion Robinson, Tre Turner and tight end James Mitchell.
Robinson forced nine missed tackles on 38 receptions last season.
The scheme for Fuentes was led by the 12 formation over the past two years, leaning on the rush in 60% of snaps. For the Hokies to get the most out of this offense, there may need to be a tweak to scheme and the run-pass ratio without Herbert.
The Hokies were tenacious in passing downs, generating a rank of 14th in Sack Rate. The main sources of those sacks have all moved on from Virginia Tech.
Rayshard Ashby and Justus Reed accounted for 13 quarterback hits and 10.5 sacks in 2020, as the Hokies must find replacements to keep the pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Leading tackler Chamarri Cooper is one of several defenders who aims to amp up the Havoc.
So @HokiesFB NB Chamarri Conner is quickly becoming a favorite of mine!
6'0 211lbs SR
Trinity Christian Alum
532 Special Teams Snaps
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 2, 2021
The remaining defensive numbers are not pretty.
Ranks outside the top 60 in coverage and tackling highlight a defense that allowed plenty of points in 2020.
There were plenty of injuries and COVID-19 dynamics that impacted Virginia Tech throughout last season, but improving a Defensive Rushing Success Rate while losing their best Havoc personnel will be no easy task for the Hokies.
North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech Matchup Analysis
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North Carolina Offense vs. Virginia Tech Defense
Virginia Tech Offense vs. North Carolina Defense
Pace of Play / Other
North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech Betting Pick
Weather from Hurricane Ida will have cleared the area before kickoff after dumping days worth of rain. Because of the “trays of natural turf positioned above asphalt,” there should be no slowing of either team thanks to drainage.
Still, there may be a reason to think points will not come as easy as the 101 scored in Chapel Hill in 2020.
Senior wide receiver Beau Corrales is out for the game, while Brown and center Brian Anderson are banged up and questionable for the Heels.
Depth was a concern on the offensive line throughout camp, especially at the center position. Howell will be tasked with getting a rhythm down alongside his new targets, while the offensive line must improve a poor Sacks Allowed Rate.
Virginia Tech’s defense was torched in last season’s game, but both sides lose explosiveness at the skill positions.
Burmeister is not expected to go deep against a talented Heels secondary but rather expand the field and use motion to get his top three targets in space. If the Hokies are successful in getting the ball into their playmakers’ hands, the Heels must have a remedy to their ongoing issues in tackling.
Considering Howell will need game repetition with his targets and Burmeister having just a single big-time throw in his career, there should be consideration for the under.
Our Action Network projection makes North Carolina a four-point favorite with a total of 64.5.
Considering explosive playmakers such as Hooker, Herbert, Brown, Newsome and Williams have all moved on, this is a small play on the first half and full-game under.
Pick: Under 64 | 1H Under 31