Frank Beamer is coaching the final home game of his 35-year career for Virginia Tech Saturday, and that emotion combined with the Hokies trying to be bowl eligible could key an upset.
One of the legendary coaches in college football is coaching the last home game of his 35-year coaching career Saturday afternoon, and that emotion of the day combined with his team trying to become bowl eligible for the 23rd straight season could lead to an upset when the 17th ranked North Carolina Tar Heels (9-1, 7-3 ATS) pay a visit to Coach Frank Beamer and his Virginia Tech Hokies (5-5, 5-5 ATS) at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, VA at 12:00 Noon ET on ESPN.
The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has Virginia Tech as a moderate home underdog for this contest with the current line at +5 with odds of -103.
Farewell Tour Off to a Good Start
Beamer announced early last week that he is retiring at the end of this season, and in their first game since the announcement the Hokies responded by going on the road and pulling the mild upset in a 23-21 win at Georgia Tech. That was the second straight win for Virginia Tech after beating Boston College in the previous game, and the Hokies are now seeking their first three-game winning streak inside the ACC since 2013.
Getting that third straight win will not be easy as North Carolina has been the winning college football pick in nine straight games since an opening loss to South Carolina. The Tar Heels continue to be potent offensively as in recent years, ranking ninth in the country in scoring averaging 42.0 points, but the difference this season has been a much improved defense in the first year under defensive coordinator Gene Chizik, with UNC allowing 18.8 points per game.
Not Dominating Any More, But Good Enough?
Beamer raised the level of play at Virginia Tech to the point where it became one of the more dominant programs in the country over the course of about a decade. That dominance subsided a bit the last three years though with the Hokies failing to reach double-digits in win in any season, and that obviously will not happen this year either despite the ability to rise up and win big games now and then.
However, the added purpose of sending Beamer out on a high note could be just the motivation the Hokies needed as the defense has been in vintage form the last two games. Granted, holding a pedestrian Boston College offense to 10 points and 218 total yards may not mean much, but Virginia Tech followed up that performance by limiting Georgia Tech to 258 total yards while holding one of the best running attacks in the country to 161 rushing yards!
And remember that the strength of the Virginia Tech defense all season has been passing defense, with the Hokies ranking seventh in the country in that category allowing just 170.8 yards per game through the air. So the entire unit is clicking right now at the perfect time.
The biggest task for the Hokies of course will be continuing that fine defense vs. a red-hot offense and a team that has not lost since Week 1 and could very well be undefeated if not for three interceptions thrown by Marquise Williams in that 17-13 defeat to the Gamecocks with two of the picks coming in the red zone.
With that being said, this could be the biggest “trap game” on the North Carolina schedule, not only because the Tar Heels can expect a tremendously emotional performance from Virginia Tech, but also because a loss by Carolina here may not end up meaning much, as the Heels can still clinch a spot in the ACC Championship Game with either a win over NC State in the regular season finale or one loss by Pittsburgh in its last two games.
Thus, even the Tar Heels may get caught up in the festivities honoring Beamer here, who by the way has guided Virginia Tech defenses that have held the vaunted North Carolina attack below 400 yards each of the last two seasons.
Finally, the underdogs from Virginia Tech are 9-2 straight up vs. North Carolina since the Hokies joined the ACC. Also, Virginia Tech is 5-2 ATS in its last seven games after allowing less than 275 total yards in its previous game, while North Carolina is 1-4 ATS in its last five games after allowing more than 280 passing yards in its previous game.
Look for another inspired effort by the Virginia Tech defense here in an attempt to give Beamer a royal send-off in Blacksburg, as well attempting to get the Hokies in a bowl game, and while that may or may not result in the outright upset, we are taking the points vs. North Carolina regardless in a game that should go right down to the wire on Saturday.
College Football Pick: Virginia Tech +5 (-103)