Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Tech is one of the more storied programs in college football despite not having a national championship, becoming synonymous with one of the best through the early 2000s.
However, times have changed in the post-Frank Beamer era, and they are looking up at the Tar Heels in the Coastal Division.
VT will be led by former Oregon transfer Braxton Burmeister, who was the team’s choice to start at QB last season but missed a majority of the campaign with different injuries. He is complemented by a formidable pairing of wide receivers in Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson and a consensus top-five tight end in college, James Mitchell.
Coach Justin Fuente on Braxton Burmeister’s top speed in summer workouts: “I’m not surprised he was there, I’m not surprised at all. He’s an elite athlete.”
A source of concern for the Hokies is their offensive line — although it was one of the best in the nation last year, they lost left tackle Christian Darrisaw to the NFL draft (where he was taken 23rd overall) and guard Doug Nester to West Virginia.
They will also be without last year’s NCAA all-purpose yards per game leader, Khalil Herbert, who joined the Chicago Bears’ backfield via a sixth-round selection.
Tech still has one of the more interesting defensive end prospects in the ACC, Amare Barno, though their vocal leader and captain, Divine Deablo, is now with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Tech formed a bad habit of giving up a lot of big plays between promising defensive sequences, which ultimately contributed to their first losing season since 1992.
Many fans are out on Fuente, and his regime and this could be his last chance to salvage a relationship with his constituents; the Hokies beat UNC in a six-overtime thriller two years ago, and securing a week-one victory would get him back on the right track.
North Carolina Tar Heels
UNC is led by standout QB and preseason Heisman candidate Sam Howell, who is projected to go in the top-10 in next year’s NFL draft. The 6-foot-1 gunslinger finished fourth in yards (3,586) and sixth in touchdowns (30) last season and loves to air the ball out, though he will be without his favorite target, Dyami Brown.
UNC has also pivoted from a dual-threat backfield of NFL talent to one that will feature Tennessee transfer Ty Chandler, who had 100 carries with the Volunteers last year.
Still, he was a near-five-star prospect coming out of high school and has the talent to thrive as the main man in the backfield.
The Tar Heels will be bringing back outside-backer Tomon Fox, who led the squad with seven sacks in 2020. Like the Hokies, UNC’s defense lost its fair share of NFL-worthy talent, though their incredible recruiting class — headlined by five-star defensive lineman Keeshawn Silver—- will ensure that they have enough depth to compete.
UNC has been a popular pick to take the Coastal, and the Heels will have to deal with this expectation — a week one road trip to a rival will not be easy, but if UNC is to live up to its hype, it has to win.
This game will be high-scoring and kept close, and the college football pick to go with is probably UNC being able to pull away in the end. The Hokies simply gave up too many chunk gains and long scores last season, and without their leader in the secondary, they will be exposed.
VT will attempt to control the clock with the occasional long passes to the streaky Turner or Robinson, but UNC’s overall talent and coaching should help them pull out a win by at least a touchdown.
Take advantage of the NCAA football odds on this game for UNC and make your sportsbook pick today!
Pick: UNC -5.5 (-110)