The national buzz surrounding Mitch Trubisky became real after North Carolina’s 37-35 win over Florida State last weekend.
The Tar Heel signal-caller was the nation’s most accurate passer (completing 76 percent of his attempts) through the first five weeks of the season. He is also coming off three straight outings of 400-plus passing yards, becoming the first player in program history to accomplish that feat.
On Saturday, though, he’ll face his toughest challenge yet.
Virginia Tech, now ranked No. 25 in the AP Top 25 poll, travels to Chapel Hill this weekend with plans of getting a leg up on No. 17 UNC in the race for the ACC Coastal Division title. The Tar Heels solidified last year’s division title by spoiling Frank Beamer’s last home game in Lane Stadium, and while the Hokies can’t clinch the Coastal on Saturday, they’d be happy to get some revenge while crushing Trubisky’s Heisman hopes in the process.
It will be elite offense versus elite defense when the two teams meet. Larry Fedora’s group ranks No. 5 in the nation in yards per play (7.47), while Justin Fuente’s squad is No. 7 in yards per play allowed (4.18).
The Tar Heel offense hasn’t seen anything like this yet. As much as they’ve blown up box scores during their four-game winning streak, the stingiest defense they faced during that stretch was Illinois (No. 78 nationally with 5.68 yards per play allowed).
The Hokies are a different animal. So far, they’ve surrendered an average of only 3.15 yards per rush (No. 21 nationally) and 5.5 yards per pass attempt (No. 9).
Virginia Tech’s secondary, led by cornerback Brandon Facyson, safety Chuck Clark and rover Terrell Edmunds, has been stellar. The defensive backs are responsible for four of the team’s five interceptions this fall, and opposing teams have completed only 41.3 percent of their passes.
Something will have to give when the Hokie defense meets UNC’s passing game.
North Carolina is one of two FBS teams that has yet to throw an interception this year. (Oddly enough, the Tar Heels haven’t picked off any passes, either.)
Trubisky has been tremendous. The Mentor, Ohio, native has racked up 1,711 yards and 13 touchdowns through the air to go along with 56 yards and four scores on the ground. Surrounding him is an arsenal of proven pass-catchers who have given opposing defensive coordinators headaches all year. Senior Ryan Switzer is the star of the group, tallying 47 receptions (with zero drops) for 587 yards and two touchdowns in the first five games.
The Tar Heels’ two-headed rushing attack of junior Elijah Hood and senior T.J. Logan has been productive as well. However, Hood is listed as questionable going into Saturday after he was knocked out of the Florida State game toward the end of the first half. UNC could very well end up leaning heavily on the passing game anyway considering the only run defense it has faced better than Virginia Tech’s, Pittsburgh, held Carolina to 18 rushing yards on 22 attempts.
While that puts pressure on Trubisky, it’s another opportunity for him to prove he belongs in the Heisman conversation. If he can pass this test, the Tar Heels have a lot to be excited about looking ahead.