North Carolina-Virginia Tech: 3 things to watch
Virginia Tech highlights Thursday night action for the second straight week as the Hokies host North Carolina in Blacksburg one week after winning a crucial ACC Coastal division matchup in Atlanta against Georgia Tech. The Hokies (9-1, 5-1 ACC) have been historically strong on Thursday nights, winning 18 of their past 23 games. But can the Tar Heels (6-4, 2-4 ACC) play their best game of the season and steal a road win over Frank Beamer's squad? The last time the Hokies played North Carolina on a Thursday night at Lane Stadium, the Tar Heels recorded a 20-17 victory.
Let's take a look at some of the key storylines in this ACC matchup.
ICONIf Logan Thomas can be efficient in the passing game against UNC, Virginia Tech will inch closer to the ACC Coastal division crown.
Can Logan Thomas give the Hokies another breakout performance?
Last Thursday night at Georgia Tech, in perhaps the Hokies' biggest game of the season to date, quarterback Logan Thomas recorded five touchdowns (three through the air and two on the ground) and completed 75 percent of his passes on third downs. Just the previous week, Thomas and the Hokies were held scoreless in the second half of a win against Duke. Too many times this fall the Virginia Tech offense has struggled to move the football, particularly in weak efforts against the Blue Devils, Clemson and East Carolina. And Thomas has been central to those subpar efforts. If he can connect with Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin to move the chains, the Hokies will have success against a defense filled with talent but one which hasn't been dominant in 2011. The good news for the Hokies is that with the exception of the Duke game two weeks ago, Thomas had not thrown an interception since October 1 against Clemson.
The David Wilson Show
The one constant of the Hokies’ offense this fall has been running back David Wilson, who rushed for a career-high 175 yards on just 23 carries in the crucial win over Georgia Tech. The 5-10, 205-pounder is the ACC’s leading rusher at 136.1 yards per game, and he recorded his seventh straight 100-yard game — the longest such streak during Beamer’s tenure as head coach — against the Yellow Jackets. Wilson has hit triple digits in yardage nine times this season, running behind a veteran offensive line that has opened up holes for the junior. And he doesn't go down after the initial hit, making a habit of getting yards after contact. Wilson's productivity makes it easier for Thomas to make plays through the air, but it's up to Thomas to execute or else linebacker Zach Brown and this UNC defense will thrive against a one-dimensional offense.
The burden of expectations
With a win, Virginia Tech will inch closer to a rematch with Clemson in the ACC championship game. Of course, the Hokies' lone loss this fall came against Dabo Swinney's Tigers. The Hokies would clinch the Coastal division title and a spot to the game in Charlotte with a win tonight and a Virginia loss at Florida State on Saturday. If any other scenario occurs, the Virginia Tech-Virginia matchup in the regular-season finale in Charlottesville will decide the division champ. But there's no question that the Hokies have momentum after last week’s 37-26 win over Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels, though, are coming off of a bye week, and quarterback Bryn Renner is recovered from his head injury. Even if the Virginia Tech offense isn't in sync, cornerback Jayron Hosley and the Bud Foster-led defense will be stout. But can the Hokies rise up again on a national stage?
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