This week’s Q&A preview of the UNC vs. Virginia game, where the Heels hope to end the Hooville House of Horrors, comes from Eric “Extra P” Angevine, co-editor of Storming The Floor, Charlottesville resident, Virginia fan, and freelancer extraordinaire.
1. After the 31-3 loss to Duke (!!!), this Cavaliers team seemed dead in the water. Since then, they?ve beaten Maryland and East Carolina by a combined score of 66-23. The return of running back Cedric Peerman has obviously helped, but one player can?t possibly be responsible for the 59 point swing between the Duke loss and the Maryland victory. What has changed in the last few weeks?
Cedric Peerman didn’t even carry the offense against Maryland. He simply made the most of his 17 carries, with 6.5 yards per carry, and a long run of 35 yards. I guess Cedric represents the threat of the big play for Virginia. The offensive line clearly pepped up a bit, as QB Marc Verica was only sacked once in each game after the Duke loss, and seemed to have more time to find his targets. The defense was stout against the Terps, but started bending again vs. East Carolina, giving up 20 points, so I’m not sure what to make of that side of the ball just yet.
2. Back to the subject of Cedric Peerman. In Chapel Hill last year, he torched the Tar Heels defense with 186 rushing yards. Carolina’s defense, admittedly, is vulnerable to giving up yardage and somewhat dependent on turnovers (#1 in the nation in TO margin). How effective do you think Peerman can be?
If he gets enough touches, odds are Cedric will get his. As I mentioned above, Peerman isn’t being run into the line 20 times a game – Mikell Simpson is still getting 12-15 carries per game. But Peerman was also the leading reciever against East Carolina with eight catches, so clearly Al Groh is trying to get his star RB out in space by any means necessary.
3. Much has been made about Virginia’s 3-4 defense. How do you expect the Tar Heels to handle it?
I believe the conventional wisdom holds that a team should pass early to open up the run. Forcing the linebackers to tend to their coverage duties early in the game should open up some holes and keep pressure off the QB. Don’t tell Coach Groh I told you that.
4. The Tar Heels last won at Charlottesville in 1981. George Welsh was hired in 1982. Clearly, this isn’t a coincidence. Prior to this year, when was the best chance UNC had to end their streak in the Hooville House of Horrors? (the 1996 game still gives me chills.)
I am a terrible choice to answer this question, as I only moved to Cville in 2000. Under those circumstances, your choice of 1996 seems like a good one. There were a lot of NFL-bound ‘Hoos on that team, and a raucous full house at the game, so maybe this year is it.
5. Last, but certainly not least, I’m gonna need a prediction. What happens on Saturday?
Hmmm. UNC has a lot on the line here – they want to win in Cville, become bowl eligible, and stay on course to the ACC championship game. My gut tells me they’re focused enough to do it, even in the face of UVA’s resurgence. The one danger sign that really stands out to me when I look at UNC’s stats, however, is the fact that opponents are putting up more yards than the Heels, both rushing and throwing. If the UNC defense doesn’t clamp down, this could be an upset.
Since I’ve been such a downer so far, I’ll delight everyone by making the homer pick – UVA continues their home streak against the Heels to the tune of 27-23. After the game, Al Groh thanks Clemson and Tommy Bowden for scaring him straight.