Virginia-North Carolina Preview
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Only a couple of years ago, North Carolina was 1-5 midway through its season and in desperate need of a turnaround.
Now that the record has flipped, the Tar Heels of today don’t want to change anything.
North Carolina (5-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) enters its visit from Virginia (2-4, 1-1) on Saturday after reversing its record from the midpoint of 2013.
”It feels a whole lot better” than being 1-5, coach Larry Fedora said. ”It’s a confidence-booster for our football team. It makes them feel better about everything that we’re doing. Everything.
”Don’t forget what it took to get to this point,” he added. ”We want to keep doing that. Most people, they get complacent, `Oh, things are going good, great, just relax.’ That’s how how you got here.”
The Tar Heels have reeled off five straight wins since that befuddling loss to South Carolina in the opener, and are coming off a 50-14 rout of Wake Forest in which they had three touchdowns that covered at least 30 yards.
”They are probably one of the most, per-possession, explosive teams that are out there,” Virginia coach Mike London said. ”They’ll throw the long ball on you. They’ll make those types of throws, and I think they have those types of athletes that can go get it.”
North Carolina is the only one-loss team from one of the five major conferences that isn’t in the Top 25.
Meanwhile, Virginia has struggled against a brutal schedule, and its four losses have come to teams that either were or are ranked:
then-No. 13 UCLA, then-No. 9 Notre Dame, a Boise State team that spent a few weeks in the polls and a Pittsburgh team that debuted in the rankings this week. The Cavaliers are coming off a 44-38, triple-overtime victory over Syracuse.
”When I look at that film, I’m saying that’s a good football team that’s coming in here,” Fedora said.
Some things to know about the Virginia-North Carolina game:
SWITCHING SIDES: Virginia WR T.J. Thorpe spent the past four injury-riddled years at North Carolina before joining the Cavaliers as a graduate transfer. He started the last three games and caught a 75-yard touchdown passes against Boise State.
NO Q’S ABOUT QUISE: North Carolina QB Marquise Williams has had a hand in 76 career touchdowns – three shy of the school record set by Darian Durant in 2004. He accounted for four – three passing, one rushing – in the Wake Forest win and is the league’s No. 9 rusher as well as its No. 6 passer.
DIZZYING MIZZELL: Virginia’s Taquan Mizzell leads the nation’s running backs with 409 yards, and he has 35 catches – second among players at his position. He’s the only running back with a pair of 100-yard receiving performances, doing it against UCLA and William & Mary.
TOUGH MATCHUP: The Tar Heels have the ACC’s best offense, leading the league in total yardage (482 ypg) and scoring (40.5 ppg), and last week Williams threw two long touchdown passes to former walk-on WR Mack Hollins. They could make things tough on a Virginia pass defense that ranks last in the league, allowing an average of 252 yards through the air.
GREAT START: North Carolina is looking for just its second 3-0 start to league play since 1983. The Tar Heels last did it under Mack Brown in 1997, starting 5-0 in the ACC while cracking the top five in the national polls.
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