North Carolina vs Virginia Tech Picks and Predictions: Hokies Poked

North Carolina lost some key players to the NFL, but the Tar Heels remain a dangerous team led by Mack Brown and Heisman contender Sam Howell. Find out if we like them to cover as 5.5-point betting favorites in our North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech picks.

Last Updated: Sep 1, 2021 5:03 PM ET Read Time: 4 min
Sam Howell North Carolina Tar Heels NCAAF
Photo By - USA TODAY Sports

With Trevor Lawrence and Travis Etienne trading in their Clemson Tigers stripes for Jacksonville Jaguars spots, many are wondering if there will be a changing of the guard in the ACC this season.

And when it comes to potential usurpers of Clemson’s throne, the team that tops the list for many is the North Carolina Tar Heels. But even with Mack Brown and Heisman hopeful Sam Howell leading the way, is UNC being undervalued in its opener at Virginia Tech?

Find out with our free college football betting picks and predictions for North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech on Friday, September 3.

North Carolina vs Virginia Tech game info

Location: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, VA
Date: Friday, September 3, 2021
Time: 6:00 p.m. ET

North Carolina vs Virginia Tech odds

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North Carolina vs Virginia Tech betting preview


Be sure to monitor the gametime conditions with our NCAA football weather info.

Key injuries

North Carolina: Khafre Brown WR (Probable), Beau Corrales WR (Out).
Virginia Tech: No key injuries to report.
Find our latest NCAA football injury reports.

Betting trend to know

The Over went 6-2 in North Carolina's final eight games last season. Find more NCAA betting trends for North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech.

Against the spread (ATS) pick

It is Year 3 of the Mack Brown era at North Carolina and many are expecting UNC to take a big leap forward this season with Howell back as one of the betting favorites to win the Heisman trophy. But the concern surrounding the Tar Heels is whether they will be as potent an offense having to replace their top two running backs and wide receivers, all of whom are in the NFL now.

But maybe we got a bit of glance into North Carolina’s future in last year’s Orange Bowl against Texas A&M. A quick look shows a 41-27 loss for the Tar Heels, but they were without three of those four impact players. A closer look shows they were leading 27-20 in the fourth quarter with Howell throwing three touchdowns before a late-game collapse. 

Howell, who has 7,227 yards and 68 TDs to just 14 interceptions over two seasons, returns behind what should be one of the best offensive lines in the country. Brown has also done a good job to restock the shelves at the skill positions. 

Obviously, going into Blacksburg and covering as a favorite will be tough. But Virginia Tech is just 3-5 as a home dog under head coach Justin Fuentes. The Hokies also lost this matchup to North Carolina in a 56-45 shootout as 3.5-point road dogs last season.

Braxton Burmeister is a good veteran quarterback if he can stay healthy but has shown inconsistency with his accuracy. And while he will be behind a strong offensive line with a deep receiving corps, it will be tough for the Hokies to keep up with the UNC offense — particularly against a Tar Heels team that should have a fierce defensive line and arguably the best corners in the conference. 

North Carolina is the team that comes into this one with expectations. They are ranked 10th in the AP poll and 15th in Covers’ college football power rankings, and while expectations can be a lot to live up to, we think the Tar Heels start the year with an impressive road win, covering the spread in the process.

PREDICTION: North Carolina -5.5 (-110)

Over/Under pick

While I don’t expect this game to be quite as explosive as last year’s 56-45 barn burner, this year’s total of 63.5 seems a touch too low for this matchup of ACC teams. 

North Carolina averaged 41.7 points per game last season, and while you should expect some regression with the Tar Heels’ top two running backs and wide receivers gone, that doesn’t mean this team will be exactly hurting for points. 

On the other side, Virginia Tech had a tough season, missing out on bowl season for the first time in 27 years, but COVID had a lot to do with that as the team missed as many as 20 players for games sometimes. And despite the COVID issues, combined with quarterback injuries, the Hokies still managed to put up 31.3 points per contest.

And even though the UNC defense should improve, it still has some weaknesses and ended up allowing 29.4 points per game last season. This game has a 38-31 feel to it, so consider the Over.

PREDICTION: Over 63.5 (-110)

North Carolina vs Virginia Tech betting card

  • North Carolina -5.5 (-110)
  • Over 63.5 (-110)

Picks made on 9/1/2021 at 4:30 p.m. ET

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