Inside Carolina/Jim Hawkins

InsideCarolina.com reporter Greg Barnes gives us intel on North Carolina

Each week, TheVTZone.com catches up with the beat writer who covers the Hokies' opponent. This week, we touched base with InsideCarolina.com reporter Greg Barnes for details on the Tar Heels.

1) How much did UNC's win at Florida State elevate the program?

I'm not sure the win in Tallahassee necessarily elevates the program, but it does help provide a win against a top-25 opponent on the road, which was lacking in UNC's run to the ACC Championship Game last December. The voters were slow to move the Tar Heels up the rankings due to a lack of wins against high-caliber opponents, so Saturday's win definitely helps in that regard. It's also gives Larry Fedora a signature win, for whatever that's worth. 

2) What has Mitch Trubisky done that's allowed him to be so effective and mistake free?

Decision-making and accuracy. The former is critical in this offense, which is built on taking what the defense gives you. As such, the quarterback has a variety of reads to make both pre-snap and post-snap. It's easy enough in design, but takes a great deal of discipline to take the easy pass instead of forcing the ball into tight spots. Trubisky has been doing that since he arrived in Chapel Hill, which is why he's competed for the starting job since his redshirt freshman season. The other aspect is his accuracy. He leads the country in completion percentage and does a great job trusting his wide receivers to get to the proper spots so that he can get rid of the ball even if pressure is coming. 

3) Aside from Trubisky what are the most important one or two things that get UNC's offense moving?

UNC utilized its tempo game against FSU last weekend and it worked quite well. By stressing the defense in that way, the Tar Heels are able to make short gains consistently, which moves the chains and helps the offense establish a rhythm. Just like last year, this offense in a rhythm is one of the best in the country. Credit Bud Foster with disrupting that rhythm more often than not in the past three meetings. Also, the Tar Heels are more explosively when Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan are effective in the ground game. Fedora's offense calls for the offense to take what the defense gives, so when a team like Pittsburgh is intent on stopping the run, UNC goes to the pass more often than not. That game plan nearly worked for Pat Narduzzi, but fell through at the end. 

4) What are the main areas to look for on the Tar Heels' defense?

UNC's front seven has been consistently inconsistent. Missed assignments, poor run fits and missed tackles are the primary reasons for the Tar Heels' defensive woes this season. UNC's secondary is as good as any in the ACC, although teams have been able to avoid relying on their passing game due to having success running the ball. Gene Chizik's Cover-2 scheme is built to limit explosive plays and make teams march down the field for scores, although that's been easier for opponents to do this season.

5) Are the amount of points given up expected? What have been the breakdowns?

UNC allowed 0.31 points per play in 2015. That's up to 0.41 points per play this season. Chizik has not been a happy man to date. A significant part of the problem is the lack of veteran leadership in the front seven. Jeff Schoettmer, Shakeel Rashad and Justin Thomason played a lot of snaps for UNC, and those guys have been missed. There's more athleticism on the field for Chizik, although the aforementioned breakdowns have seemingly multiplied. Allowing 6.1 yards per play is simply not getting it done.

Barnes' fearless prediction:

Strong wind and heavy rain place an emphasis on ball security on Saturday. That's a no-brainer, of course. Don't expect Fedora to adjust his offense due to the weather, however. His Southern Miss team played in similar conditions during Tropical Storm Lee and the run/pass split was 50/50. Given the conditions, I expect a similar game flow as last season at Lane. A tight game with the team that reaches 20 first in prime position to win. UNC 24, VT 17.


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