Quick thoughts on North Carolina(+10 at last check)-Virginia Tech: I don’t have a strong pull on this game. The argument for Virginia Tech covering is that this a revenge game from the last time UNC came into Lane Stadium and upset the VATech two years ago. Virginia Tech should have high motivation, given that a win could clinch the a birth for them in the ACC Title Game with a loss by rival Virginia on Saturday. It is senior night and Virginia Tech relishes in playing in the spotlight.
But here’s why Virginia Tech won’t cover. Virginia Tech is 3-7 against the spread, one of those against an FCS team, one against Wake Forest after the Demon Deacon were coming off a huge win against Florida State, and another was in a pick’em game at Georgia Tech, with extra time to prepare, everyone either beats or covers against Georgia Tech. The four worst teams in the AQ conference at covering the spread are Virginia Tech, Penn State, Nebraska, and Texas A&M. A&M can never handle expectation, and the three other programs all have the same common denominator: influence from an older head coach who is run-oriented and doesn’t believe in running up the score in an age where everyone does. (Athletic director Tom Osborne in Nebraska’s case.) Virginia Tech is built around their running the ball, both with running back David Wilson and quarterback Logan Thomas (428 running plays compared to 275 pass plays). But Thomas leaves much to be desired as a passer, which why Virginia Tech doesn’t cover often.
So let’s look at North Carolina. Going into their game against North Carolina State, I thought that the Tar Heels were a good bet at -4. I went this way because UNC hadn’t been blown out in any of their games this year, except the Clemson game were two of their turnovers lead directly to points and North Carolina State had been blown out three times. The line had gone down, and I figured there was value on UNC. I was wrong, and NCSU won 13-0. Now, UNC has had time to prepare and should be motivated given that this is their first and only shot on the national stage this year (and they disappointed in their last opportunity on a national stage in last season’s opener against LSU in the Georgia Dome.) UNC isn’t a size mismatch against Virginia Tech, and still has the NFL bodies which Butch Davis recruited. UNC quarterback Bryn Renner grew up in a Hokie family, so he will be max motivated. It would seem to be a reasonable play to follow the trend and take a Virginia Tech opponent to cover.
But there are some reservations about North Carolina. First Interim Head Coach Everett Withers probably has no chance now to get the job on a permanent basis and with his team already achieving bowl eligibility, likely they won’t be giving maximum effort. Everyone know a new hand is coming in and they could be playing for themselves. Outside of Duke, UNC has been 5-8 in November the past four year and this years (the Davis years), possibly because because basketball is back and football again is taking a back seat. If UNC mails it in, it won’t matter how Virginia Tech plays.
The line opened around -13 but is now down to -10. While logic dictates that the Virginia Tech opponent would be an automatic play, I do think there are some concerns about UNC’s motivation. Personally, I would wait up until game time and see if the line dropped any further. If it ended up around 9 or 9.5, I would consider playing Virginia Tech, but I have no problem passing on it. There will be better games this weekend.