UNC vs. Virginia prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins between the Tar Heels and Cavaliers on Saturday in Charlottesville, VA.
UNC vs. Virginia Game Preview
When: Saturday, Oct. 22 – 3:00 p.m. ET
Where: Scott Stadium, Charlottesville, VA
TV Broadcast: ACC Extra
The Tar Heels (5-2, 3-1 ACC) bounced back from their disastrous effort against Virginia Tech last week by scoring a 20-13 win over Miami on the road to move into first place in the ACC Coastal division. After throwing his first interceptions of the season in the loss to the Hokies, quarterback Mitch Trubisky threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns, while Bug Howard had 10 catches for 156 yards against the Hurricanes.
Meanwhile, the Cavaliers (2-4, 1-1) dropped a 45-31 contest at home to Pittsburgh. Quarterback Kurt Benkert had a 74-yard touchdown pass to Olamide Zaccheaus in a wild first half that saw the teams combine for three touchdowns in a 1:03 span. The Cavaliers had their two-game win streak come to an end.
When these two teams met last season in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels forced five turnovers in the second half of a 26-13 win. Elijah Hood rushed for 101 yards with two three-yard scoring runs for the Tar Heels, while Taquan Mizzell rushed for 117 yards for the Cavs.
What To Know About UNC
Larry Fedora’s Tar Heels looked much better last Saturday against Miami than they did in their embarrassing 34-3 loss to Virginia Tech, which won handily in a game played through treacherous weather conditions due to Hurricane Matthew. Trubisky reverted back to his normal form, which found him as one of the nation’s top passers heading into the game against the Hokies. Hood is healthy again, although he is not having a standout season. UNC will need him to be at his best for the stretch run. And while the defense isn’t the strength of this team, Gene Chizik’s unit held the Hurricanes to just 4-of-15 on third-down conversions.
What to Know About Virginia
The Cavaliers were able to snap their 17-game road losing streak against Duke before their bye week, and things started off very well against Pitt last Saturday after having the extra rest. But the Cavaliers could not complete the upset, and things don’t get much easier this week against UNC. The good news for Cavalier fans is that Bronco Mendenhall was able to get his squad to refocus after a rough start to the season, which included a 17-point loss to FCS squad Richmond. Benkert has been a productive passer, but taking better care of the football is still an issue for the East Carolina transfer.
Offense: UNC. Trubisky is capable of lighting up a lot of defenses.
Defense: UNC. The Tar Heels rank No. 78 in total defense at 417.3 yards per game, which isn’t fantastic. However, the Hoos rank No. 107 at 450.7 yards per contest. Even this non-Math major knows what’s up.
Special Teams: UNC. The Cavaliers allowed Pitt’s Quadree Henderson to score on a 93-yard kickoff return last week.
Coaching: UNC. Fedora’s agent will be getting some phone calls this offseason after the Tar Heels beat both Florida State and Miami in the same season for the first time in program history.
Intangibles: UNC. The Tar Heels will not want to slip up against an inferior ACC foe, knowing that they control their own destiny in the Coastal.
Matchup To Watch
Benkert vs. UNC secondary
Against the Panthers last week, Benkert was beat up. He only completed 20 of his 44 attempts for 278 yards, and he had an interception to go along with his touchdown. That pick proved very costly, too, as it shifted momentum before halftime. The Hoos were trying to put up even more points before the break, but Jordan Whitehead picked off Benkert’s pass at the Panthers’ 41 and ran it back for a score to give Pitt the lead. When UNC comes to town this week, Benkert will be facing a pair of outstanding cornerbacks in Des Lawrence and MJ Stewart. They are the stars of a deep secondary that Benkert will have to navigate as he tries to get the Hoos up and down the field.
Spread: UNC -8.5
Over/Under: No over/under as of post
UNC vs. Virginia Prediction
This is yet another test for Mendenhall’s squad, which is playing its best football of the year. But UNC wants to return to the ACC title game, and it does not want to relinquish control of the Coastal division. Benkert will find success through the air, but a couple of turnovers against a good UNC secondary will be the difference along with too much Trubisky.
UNC vs. Virginia Score Prediction: UNC 36, Virginia 24