The South’s Oldest Rivalry will be renewed this weekend as the Virginia Cavaliers visit the North Carolina Tar Heels in a critical ACC Coastal division matchup. Game time is at 7:30 EST on Saturday, November 2 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Fans can watch all of the action on the ACC Network.
If we check the Week 10 college football odds, the Tar Heels are listed as 2.5-point favorites at home. The over/under for the game is set at 47.5 points.
A month ago, Virginia looked like the obvious favorite in the ACC Coastal division, starting the season 4-0 and 2-0 in conference play. However, they’ve lost three of their last four games, including last week’s 28-21 road loss to Louisville. The Cavaliers now have some serious work to do to get themselves to the ACC Championship Game. The good news is that this is Virginia’s last road game of the season. However, they might need to win this game to reach the conference title game.
As for the Tar Heels, they started the season fast, slumped in late September but appear to be coming back around. Back-to-back wins over South Carolina and Miami to start the season were followed by a three-game losing streak. However, the Tar Heels have won two of their last three games to get back to 4-4 on the season and put them within striking distance of a bowl game and perhaps a spot in the ACC Championship Game.
At the moment, Virginia and UNC are tied atop the Coastal with both teams 3-2 in ACC play. However, every team in the division has either two or three conference losses. The winner of this game will have a leg up in the race and could be considered the favorite. But as usual, it’s still a wide-open race in the ACC Coastal division.
In addition to first place in the Coastal division, there are also serious bragging rights on the line in this game. North Carolina and Virginia have been playing football against one another since 1892 and have met every year for over a century. Not too long ago, the Tar Heels held a seven-game winning streak in this rivalry. However, the Cavaliers have changed that with wins each of the past two seasons. Of course, Virginia has just one win in their last four trips to Chapel Hill.
I’m officially ready to sell my Virginia stock after last week’s loss to Louisville. I don’t trust the Cavs anymore, even with one of the better defenses in the ACC. Also, keep in mind that three of UNC’s losses have come against teams currently in the top-25, including their near upset of Clemson. With the line at less than a field goal, I trust the Tar Heels to win and cover against their rivals.
The Virginia offense just isn’t getting the job done these days. Even their 48-point performance against Duke two weeks ago wasn’t that impressive. In that game, the Cavs were aided by five Duke turnovers and a kickoff return for a touchdown. The Virginia offense couldn’t even get it going against a porous Louisville defense last week. They were held to just 78 yards rushing, forcing quarterback Bryce Perkins to throw the ball 41 times, which is not a winning formula. On the season, the Cavs are only gaining 3.3 yards per carry and Perkins just isn’t a good enough passer to win games with his arm alone.
I fear that Virginia could have similar problems again this week. The North Carolina defense has held strong against the run most of the season. They limited Duke to 100 yards last week and even held Clemson to a mere 125 rushing yards, which is an impressive accomplishment. If the Tar Heels can continue to be stout against the run, they should have no problem keeping Virginia to 20 points or less, which should be enough to win the game.
To be fair, the Virginia defense has continued to play at a high level despite the team’s slump. They are giving up just under 21 points per game on the season and only Notre Dame has eclipsed 30 points against them. But if the offense continues to struggle, the UVA defense is bound to crack at some point. Last week, the Cavs gave up 28 points against a Louisville team that only attempted 14 passes, which is a bad sign.
Despite a lack of rushing touchdowns on the season, the UNC backfield of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter should give the Tar Heels good production after the Cavs struggled to contain Louisville’s running game last week. I also like the play of freshman quarterback Sam Howell. He struggled last week, but he’s also thrown for over 300 yards in three of his last five games, so he’s capable of making plays if the Tar Heels need him.
This figures to be a low-scoring defensive slugfest. But I think it’s more likely that the North Carolina offense will find a breakthrough at some point. The Cavaliers are asking too much of their defense right now, and that usually catches up to you on the road. With only a field goal to cover, I like my chances with the Tar Heels.