CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The race for first place in the ACC Coastal division heats up Saturday when Virginia visits North Carolina for the 124th edition of the South's Oldest Rivalry. The Cavaliers and Tar Heels are tied atop the division standings with several other teams in pursuit, and a win Saturday will give one squad a leg up in the race to meet Clemson - in all likelihood - in the ACC title game.
TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, ACC Network. LINE: North Carolina -2.5
"Luckily we're still at the top of the division," Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall told the media. "We know within four weeks that thing could flip upside down, sideways, in about 20 different variations. Yeah, race to the finish, one game at a time. It's an intriguing matchup. Meaningful matchup for both teams." Mendenhall's team is just 1-3 on the road and has lost three of its last four overall after last week's 28-21 setback at Louisville. North Carolina comes into this one on a high note following a dramatic 20-17 win over rival Duke that ended on a goal-line interception by star linebacker Chazz Surratt, but coach Mack Brown knows that victory means little if his team cannot defend home field against the Cavaliers. "Yes, I told them yesterday that whatever you're doing to prepare, you need to do a little more," Brown told reporters Monday when asked about his team's preparation.
ABOUT VIRGINIA (5-3, 3-2 ACC)
Senior quarterback Bryce Perkins threw his eighth interception in the loss to Louisville, one of 10 turnovers the Cavaliers have had during their current 1-3 slide. “I’ve got to do a better job of just being smarter about not trying to always be superman and make the superman plays,” Perkins - who also had some issues with fumbles - told reporters. Perkins is third in the ACC in passing yards (1,803) and his five rushing touchdowns rank second on the team to sophomore Wayne Taulapapa (nine).
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (4-4, 3-2)
Freshman quarterback Sam Howell completed only 10-of-26 passes against Duke but he still leads the ACC in passing yards (2,119) and touchdowns (22). Sophomore Javonte Williams paces the ground game with 640 yards - fifth in the conference - while junior Dazz Newsome (582 receiving yards, six touchdowns) is one of three wide receivers with at least five scores through the air. Surratt, the one-time quarterback, is second in the ACC with 75 tackles and tied with fellow junior linebacker Tomon Fox for the team lead with five sacks.
1. Only Minnesota and Wisconsin (127 games) have met more often than Virginia and North Carolina.
2. The Cavaliers are finishing up their road schedule and play their final three games at home.
3. Virginia won the last two meetings after dropping the previous seven.
PREDICTION: North Carolina 24, Virginia 21