At Virginia Tech, Justin Fuente is on the hot seat. He took over from legend Frank Beamer and posted a 10-4 record in his first season in 2016. However, the team has steadily declined and had a 5-6 record in 2020.
Fuente had a reputation for grooming elite college quarterbacks like Andy Dalton and Paxton Lynch. However, he has yet to produce a star of equal merit at Virginia Tech.
Last season, Hendon Hooker and Braxton Burmeister split time at QB. Hooker had the better completion percentage and yards per attempt. However, he transferred to Tennessee but could not win the starting job over Michigan transfer Joe Milton.
This leaves Burmeister as the starter for Virginia Tech.
Last year, the strength of Virginia Tech’s offense was the run game, as they ranked 4th in rush success rate adjusted for opponent. However, they lost RB Khalil Herbert, who averaged 7.7 yards per carry and first round NFL draft pick LT Christian Darrisaw.
As many questions as Virginia Tech has on offense, they have more on defense. Legendary DC Bud Foster retired before last season, and Justin Hamilton took over. By my adjusted success rate, the defense fell from 24th in 2019 to 83rd in 2020.
In contrast, North Carolina looks solid at QB and on defense.
QB Sam Howell begins his 3rd season as starter North Carolina. By my adjusted pass success rate, he has led a unit that ranked 10th and 16th in 2019 and 2020 respectively.
It’s a little concerning that WR Beau Corrales is out for this game and WR Khafre Brown is nursing a lower leg injury. However, Brown is likely to play, and Josh Downs gives Howell another talented option at receiver.
On defense, North Carolina was 36th in my adjusted success rate in 2020. They lose LB Chazz Surratt, a player picked in the 3rd round of the NFL draft, but otherwise get almost everyone else back. This includes CB Storm Duck, who missed most of last season with an injury.
My numbers like North Carolina by 7.4 on the road over Virginia Tech. Because of the upside of Howell, I think this might reflect an underestimate of North Carolina. Hence, I see value in North Carolina -5.5.
Sports betting with a PhD edge
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