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UNC Meets Virginia in Key ACC Clash

Sharon Thorsland
November 01, 2019 - 2:10 pm

All is right with the world – the Victory Bell is back in Chapel Hill after North Carolina snapped a four-game losing streak to arch-rival Duke last week, improving to 4-4 on the season at the same time.  

Even more important, the win moved the Tar Heels into a tie for first place in the ACC's Coastal Divison.  And guess who they're tied with?  Virginia.  

The Wahoos (5-3, 3-2 ACC) just happen to come to Chapel Hill on Saturday night for the latest edition of the South's Oldest Rivalry.  

So needless to say, this is a big one.  Kick-off is set for 7:30 Saturday in Chapel Hill, you can hear all the action on WBT.  These teams have been playing since 1892, and currently, UNC leads the series 63-56, with four ties thrown in.

The Cavaliers might boast a good record, but they're struggling as of late.  

They've lost three of their last four games, and are having a hard time generating any offense, particularly on the road – they've won just one game away from home this season.  

Running the ball has been an issue as well.  The Cavaliers are last in the league at just 105 rushing yards per game, that's 123rd in the country. 

Wayne Taulapapa has scored four rushing touchdowns in the last two games but has managed just 341 on the year. 

That means senior quarterback Bryce Perkins has to generate most of the offense.  He's thrown for 1803 yards with nine touchdowns and has also picked up 275 yards on the ground.  

Perkins has some talented receivers, including senior Hasise Dubois.  He's one of the top wideouts in the ACC, racking up 582 receiving yards, one of three Wahoo receivers with over 300 yards.  

UNC's defense has been very good against the pass, limiting teams to just 216 passing yards per game.
One guy to keep an eye on - Joe Reed.  The senior receiver is tied for first in the nation with eight kickoff returns over 30 yards and is the only player in the country with three returns of 70-plus yards, including two touchdowns.

What the Cavaliers do well is play defense.  They're second in the ACC and rank in the top 20 in the nation against both the pass and the run, and allow just under 21 points a game.  

They're a physical defense, led by senior linebacker Jordan Mack, who has seven sacks.  The secondary boasts some lockdown defenders, including cornerback Nick Grant.  

An area of vulnerability is red-zone defense.  Teams score a whopping 85 percent of the time in the red zone.  

The Tar Heels offense is improving every week behind freshman quarterback Sam Howell, who has thrown 11 touchdowns in the past three games.  

He has 22 on the season with just 5 interceptions.  The Cavaliers will also be challenged by UNC's rushing attack – Javonte Williams and Michael Carter have combined for nearly 1200 yards this season.

Everything points to quite the prime time showdown in Chapel Hill on Saturday night.  The winner takes control of the Coastal, and positions themselves to land a berth in the ACC Championship game.  

Virginia has won the past two games, but UNC won seven straight before that.  Now that the Victory Bell is back in Chapel Hill, it's time for the Tar Heels to take control of this Virginia rivalry again.  Go Tar Heels!

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