With all that seems to have come to the Tar Heels after one huge win, much of the luster from a 31-28 upset of Miami will become tarnished if they don't show well against the Hokies. The game should decide if Carolina's biggest win in school history indeed marked a turning point on the season and the program's long-term direction.
Although neither team is bowl eligible yet, with a victory UNC would move into at least a tie for fourth-place in the conference, and perhaps hold the edge over the Hokies when bowl invites are handed out.
"I don't think anyone picked Carolina to upset Miami, but when you look at the video, it's obvious it wasn't a fluke," Tech coach Frank Beamer said. "It certainly got our attention. They've had some good wins and certainly are a very capable football team. I think their ability to move the football has been there, and we certainly know the capabilities of Miami."
The quarterback match-up may be the most intriguing, with the similarities between Darian Durant and Bryan Randall.
And while Randall has run for more yards this season – 350 to Durant's 140 - one could argue he has had to burden more of the Hokies' rushing load than his Carolina counterpart. But their passing numbers are remarkably similar. So far in 2004, Randall has completed 107 of 196 passes for 1,436 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Durant is 109-for-183 with 1,415 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The two seniors are mature, mobile and experienced signal callers with plenty left to prove.
Despite the fact that both are the all-time total offense leaders at their respective schools - and the holders of too many other records to count - neither has been on teams that have fully satisfied their taste for winning.
The Hokies have been successful under Randall (22-11), however their last two seasons have not ended with the promise with which they began. In 2002 when Randall took over during the third game of the season, the Hokies stormed out of the gate with eight straight wins, only to lose four of its last five regular season contests and had to settle for a meeting with Air Force in the San Francisco Bowl. And last season was worse, as Tech again started the season strong, only to lose five of their last seven, including a 52-49 loss to Cal in The Insight Bowl.
But this year, Randall would like to end his career on a higher note.
"He's playing like the mature quarterback that he is in the study of his game," Beamer said. "He's always been a smart character guy. He's been there at the end in every ballgame. He's continued to improve his accuracy, and I think that has shown this year."
Meanwhile for Durant, a strong finish to his collegiate tenure would help to ease the frustration of two losing seasons under his direction. Considering UNC wraps up the season against the league's 10th and 11th place teams, the next few games could go a long way in determining where his legacy will rank among all-time Tar Heel quarterbacks.
"That young man has come a long way," Bunting said. "I'm so proud of the way he operates and manages games, and the way he manages himself and helps his teammates. He is someone who is very much in line with the type of person we want in this program."