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Pick 'em: Virginia Tech at North Carolina

By Mark Giannotto

This Saturday's matchup with North Carolina could be Virginia Tech's toughest game since its season-opening loss to Boise State. And considering that game against the Broncos was played in front of mostly Hokie fans, there's an argument to be made that traveling to Chapel Hill, N.C. will be Virginia Tech's biggest challenge yet.

It's for this reason, I'm having so much trouble deciding on a winner and a score for this one. To me, there are two key matchups in this game.

One involves Virginia Tech's offensive line. Though the unit has steadily improved to the point that all five starters have graded out at above 80 percent in four of the Hokies past five games, they have not faced a front seven of this caliber in quite some time. How they handle North Carolina's talented set of linebackers, who have been buoyed by the return of Quan Sturdivant from injury, and defensive lineman Quinton Coples will likely determine the outcome of this game.

The Tar Heels have the third-worst passing defense in the ACC this year, and if Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor has time in the pocket to survey the field, he could pick this secondary apart.

In terms of Virginia Tech's defense, it's a question of whether the secondary can play at the level it has all season. The Hokies are currently No. 1 in the nation in terms of opposing quarterbacks' completion percentage, but there's no doubt North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates is the best signal caller this defense has seen since Kellen Moore (and yes, I'm including North Carolina State's Russell Wilson when I say that).

The matchup to watch is on the outside, where cornerbacks Rashad Carmichael and Jayron Hosley must slow down 6-4 wide receiver Dwight Jones (612 yards receiving in his last four games) despite giving up at least five inches.

This one will come down to the wire, and my guess is the Hokies won't be able to come back if they continue their pattern of falling behind early. That said, since the James Madison loss, this team has been on a mission to go undefeated the rest of the way. I'm not sure that will happen, but I don't see Virginia Tech's winning streak coming to an end this weekend.

My prediction: Virginia Tech 34, North Carolina 31

But what do you all think? Will the Hokies eliminate North Carolina from the Coastal Division picture and remain undefeated in conference play? Or do Butch Davis and the Tar Heels pick up their seventh win in the past eight games?

By Mark Giannotto  | November 12, 2010; 10:45 AM ET
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Next: ESPN's Jay Bilas talks Virginia Tech basketball


This should be a great game between two pretty good teams.

Va Tech should be able to win it, but it really depends on if they bring their defense to the game.

Posted by: postfan1 | November 13, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

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