North Carolina and Virginia Tech were thought to be two of the main contenders for the Coastal Division crown before the season started, but they have taken divergent paths through the first few weeks of the college football year. The Hokies host the Tar Heels this Saturday, with television coverage beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET on the ACC Network.
North Carolina started out with a disappointing but not unexpected 1-2 start -- close(-ish) road losses to South Carolina and Georgia Tech sandwiching a win over Middle Tennessee State. Everything went wrong for the Tar Heels last week, however, as they were blown out of the water at home by East Carolina, 55-31. The season is by no means over for the Tar Heels, who have a fairly friendly conference schedule that has them avoid Florida State, Clemson and Maryland and host Miami, but they need to get back on track quickly if they want to throw their name into the ACC race.
After a blowout loss to Alabama and a blowout win over Western Carolina, Virginia Tech struggled to close wins over Conference-USA opponents. The Hokies beat the aforementioned East Carolina Pirates 15-10 on the road, and defeated Marshall at home 29-21 in triple overtime. Heading into their conference opener against a strong Georgia Tech team, many thought Virginia Tech would be unable to score enough points to defeat the dominating Yellow Jacket running game. Virginia Tech won, 17-10, holding Georgia Tech to just 129 yards rushing.
Rankings and records: Neither team is ranked, but Virginia Tech received plenty of votes in both polls. The Hokies are 4-1 (1-0 in conference play), while the Tar Heels are 1-3 (and 0-1 in the ACC). The Yellow Jackets lead the all-time series 28-17-3, and have won the last five contests between the two schools.
Vegas: The Hokies are a 7.5-point favorite, with an over/under of 45.5. OddsShark has more.
Weather: High 80s and sunny.
Three names to know
Bryn Renner. Unsurprisingly, Renner has been key to North Carolina's success (or lack there of) this season. While he's been solid in two of their three losses, he had by far his most success against Middle Tennessee State, and will need to help lead the Tar Heel offense against a very tough Hokie D.
Brandon Facyson. That Hokie defense is led partially by the freshman cornerback Facyson, who has four interceptions and a fumble forced, quickly gaining a reputation as a playmaker on defense.
J.R. Collins. Of course, much of Virginia Tech's defensive success comes from their ability to pressure the passer, and that can be partly attributed to the senior defensive end Collins. He has six tackles for a loss this season and a remarkable 12 quarterback hurries.
Two things at stake
North Carolina has had a disastrous start to the year, and a win in Blacksburg would certainly help calm the Tar Heel faithful down.
After a relatively shaky 3-1 start to the year, Virginia Tech dispatched what looked to be a strong Coastal contender in Georgia Tech on the road. Another win here would put the Hokies in good position for the division title.
How to witness
TV: 12:30 p.m. ET on the ACC Network.
Online streaming: ESPN3.