Virginia Tech football opens up its season in conference play against 10th-ranked North Carolina. The Hokies went 5-6 in 2020, which started off well but ended with losing four of their last five games. Much of this was due to a poor defense that looks to improve from a season ago.
North Carolina has a top 10 preseason ranking from the Associated Press, but they are still small favorites on the road. Most sportsbooks have them favored by 5.5 points with the total hovering around 66 points. Virginia Tech is available as +180 underdogs on the moneyline at BetMGM.
|North Carolina||-5.5 (-110)||O66 (-110)||-225|
|Virginia Tech||+5.5 (-110)||U66 (-110)||+180|
Looking Back At 2020-21 Season For Virginia Tech Football
The Hokies weren’t the most reliable against the spread, covering just four games where they were favorites. They never found consistency in their season. After arguably getting their best win of the season in a 40-14 beatdown of Boston College, they followed it up with an ugly 23-16 loss to Wake Forest.
Things were good at the halfway point of the season until they hosted Liberty, one of the top smaller football programs emerging in 2020. Virginia Tech tied the game at 35 with 52 seconds left and nearly stole the game with a field goal block and return for a touchdown. However, a timeout was called and Liberty made a 51-yard field goal to win.
VT’s defense was awful against Liberty and it was the fourth game of the season where they allowed 31 or more points. That continued to be an issue in uncompetitive blowouts against Pittsburgh and Clemson that followed. A four-game losing streak ended in their rivalry game against Virginia, 33-15, when the defense gave up the least amount of points all year.
How Does Virginia Tech’s Defense Look In 2021?
While it’ll be tested thoroughly in the opener, the defensive unit should improve overall. Defensive lineman Amare Barno tied a season-high 6.5 sacks for the team and returns as the projected top pass rusher. Leading tackler Chamarri Conner also returns, who recorded 60 of his 81 tackles by himself and grabbed two interceptions.
A big issue for the Hokies’ defense was missing key players heading into the 2020 season. One of their top cornerbacks, Caleb Farley, opted out, and there were a few injuries to deal with. There’s also only room for improvement for a total defense that ranked 103rd nationally.
Expectations For Virginia Tech Football Against North Carolina
Last time these teams played, North Carolina jumped to a 21-0 lead in the first 11 minutes. The scoring continued all afternoon between the two teams, with Virginia Tech making a surge in the final six minutes of the third quarter with three touchdowns of their own. At that time, it was a 42-37 lead for UNC.
However, the Tar Heels would ice the game early in the fourth quarter and eventually won 56-45. They nearly hit the total themselves, which was set at 59.5 prior to kickoff. As expected, the total is sitting fairly high for this year’s contest even as a season opener.
On the plus side for the Hokies, a lot of pressure will be on North Carolina. They have a high ranking they must immediately defend on the road in a key conference contest. On the flip side, the Hokies’ season can spiral quickly if they don’t win this game. A road contest against West Virginia and having to host Notre Dame rounds out the first five weeks of the season.
Sports Betting Recommendations
- Over 66 (-110, BetMGM)
North Carolina is the deserved favorite in this contest and is likely the better team to lean on. Just getting the points for Virginia Tech doesn’t seem like enough considering how much offense there should be. For those that like the Hokies to pull off the upset at home, it might be best to just take them at the moneyline.
Perhaps the safest pick on the board is taking the over even at the high number. Virginia Tech’s offense has potential with a new regular starter at quarterback, Braxton Burmeister, who has plenty of experience. Don’t forget the team’s running attack either, which ranked 10th nationally a season ago (240 yards per game and 27 total touchdowns). But the defense is still no match for Sam Howell and the power offense the Tar Heels are bringing in.