at North Carolina 28 … Virginia 17
Posted Sep 17, 2011

Week 3 CFN Fearless Prediction & Game Story - Virginia at North Carolina

2011 Predictions & Game Story 

Week 3 - Virginia at North Carolina

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Sept. 17 at North Carolina 28 … Virginia 17
CFN Analysis: COMING

(AP) CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Bryn Renner threw two touchdown passes and Ryan Houston ran for two scores Saturday to help North Carolina beat Virginia 28-17.

Giovani Bernard ran for 102 yards to lead a strong ground attack for the Tar Heels (3-0, 1-0), who won their first Atlantic Coast Conference opener in 11 years. Dwight Jones and Jheranie Boyd each had TD catches as the UNC offense put together an efficient and relatively mistake-free afternoon.

A week after committing five turnovers against Rutgers, the Tar Heels committed just one -- though that fumbled snap near the goal line early in the fourth quarter came after they led 28-10.

Virginia (2-1, 0-1) moved the football, but the Cavaliers repeatedly squandered opportunities in the first half that could've made this a different game. Instead, they managed only a 41-yard touchdown catch by Max Milien in the third quarter and a 4-yard keeper by Michael Rocco with 5:09 left.

The Cavaliers finished with 468 total yards to outgain the Tar Heels (401). They also ran for 170 yards against a defense that ranked third nationally by allowing 30 yards per game. But they couldn't stop Bernard -- who had runs of 29 and 40 yards -- in a ground attack that finished with 222 yards on 41 carries.

Bernard, a redshirt freshman who missed last season with a knee injury, finished with his first 100-yard game on just 12 carries.

North Carolina hadn't won an ACC opener since winning at Wake Forest in 2000, a skid that outlasted the tenures of two head coaches and constantly kept it fighting uphill in the league standings. But the Tar Heels are now 3-0 for the second time in three seasons while interim coach Everett Withers remains unbeaten since taking over after the firing of Butch Davis a week before preseason camp.

Houston punched in a pair of touchdowns at the goal line and had just 17 yards on nine carries in a role reminiscent of his past seasons as a short-yardage finisher. Renner had a perfectly thrown 18-yard touchdown to Boyd near the front left pylon for North Carolina's first score, then threw a 17-yard scoring pass to Jones -- who managed to get a foot down in bounds of the left side of the end zone -- to push the lead to 21-3 on the opening drive of the second half.

The Tar Heels also forced their first three turnovers of the season. Defensive lineman Sylvester Williams recovered a fumbled snap in the first half, and then safety Matt Merletti intercepted two overthrown passes from Rocco in the final 3 minutes to seal it.

Virginia, meanwhile, had first-half drives end with a missed 45-yard field goal, a fourth-down stop and the fumbled snap.

The Tar Heels played without junior cornerback and punt returner Todd Harrelson, who has been suspended indefinitely for violating team and school rules. The school said his suspension was not related to the NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic misconduct.

Virginia (2-0) at North Carolina (2-0) Sept. 17, 3:30, ESPNU

Here's The Deal … Virginia and North Carolina are preparing to resume the oldest ACC rivalry, which has been played every year since 1919. Both schools will be after 3-0 starts following nail-biting victories in Week 2. The Tar Heels had a tougher than expected time with Rutgers, holding on for a 24-22 win in a turnover-filled contest. Carolina has back-to-back games against Coastal Division opponents, needing to clean up its act if it hopes to become a factor in the divisional race.

Virginia has won its first two games for the first time since 2005, an unmistakable sign that head coach Mike London has the program trending upward. Of course, that doesn't mean that there haven't been precarious moments, one of the trademarks of a young team. Last week, for instance, the Cavaliers blew a 23-3 lead at Indiana before rallying to win on a walk-off field goal. The old UVa probably doesn't rally to win that game.

Why Virginia Might Win: The biggest surprise in Charlottesville has been the play of the offense, which is now getting production from the backfield. Kevin Parks was the hero in Game 1, running for 114 yards and three touchdowns. Perry Jones stole the spotlight in Bloomington, going for 78 yards and a score. The cornerstone of the defense has been an air-tight secondary led by all-star CB Chase Minnifield. Carolina QB Bryn Renner was picked off three times by Rutgers, and will have to be extra cautious against improved competition this week. If the passing attack isn't clicking, the Heels will be forced to put their fate on the shoulders of an average ground game.

Why North Carolina Might Win: Defense is going to carry head coach Everett Withers' team for much of the year. The offense has potential, but the D is loaded. The Tar Heels will be facing a Virginia team that's yet to throw a touchdown pass against light competition, so balance and diversity won't be a concern. The Heels will flood the box with one of the nation's better front sevens to create an intriguing matchup in the trenches. Since Carolina is allowing less than a card per carry, the onus will fall on Virginia QB Michael Rocco to start making plays. He'll first have to avoid the likes of DE Quinton Coples, DT Tydreke Powell and linebackers Zach Brown and Kevin Reddick, which is a very tall task.

What To Watch Out For: One of many good pairings on this afternoon will occur when Minnifield is standing opposite Carolina WR Dwight Jones. At 6-4 and 225 pounds, Jones is a handful, with a future on Sundays. His first 15 catches of the year have already gone for 251 yards and three touchdowns, but neither James Madison nor Rutgers house a corner of Minnifield's caliber. Jones' battery mate, Renner, has had an interesting debut as the starter. While he's been incredibly precise, connecting on 42-of-49 passes, he's also been picked off four times. He needs to make better decisions, a microcosm for what's happening in Chapel Hill.

What Will Happen: That growth spurt being experienced by the Virginia offense is about to take a week off. The Cavs just don't have enough weapons, especially through the air, to put a dent in the Carolina defense. Provided it can get a better handle on the ball, the Tar Heels won't need too much support from the offense to get to 3-0. A few strikes from Renner to Jones, and a couple of timely bursts from backs Giovani Bernard and Ryan Houston will be all that's necessary.

CFN Prediction: North Carolina 24 … Virginia 13
- Click For Latest Line From ATS: North Carolina -10   O/U: 48.5

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