Friday night has two Power 5 conference matchups.
UNC at Virginia Tech
Sam Howell led North Carolina to score 56 points against Virginia Tech last season in Chapel Hill. This year the Tar Heels travel to Blacksburg on Friday night. North Carolina loses some playmakers in the backfield and out wide. UNC loses two fantastic running backs but Ty Chandler and Caleb Hood are set to step up to the challenge. The defense loses star LB Chazz Surratt but the group as a whole should be better with most starters returning. With Hendon Hooker transferring to Tennessee, Braxton Burmeister will be under center for the Hokies, but there are other questions on the offense that kept the Hokies in games last season. The defense returns 8 starters and looks to improve with a full offseason.
Verdict: (UNC -5) Both defenses have a lot of work to do, but North Carolina’s edge is with its offense. They lose production at WR, but their offensive line and running backs should step up to the challenge and assist Sam Howell this season.
UNC 41- Virginia Tech 31
Michigan State at Northwestern
Friday’s late game is between two Big Ten teams trying to surprise the conference. Northwestern is coming off a 7-2 year with a win against Auburn in the Citrus Bowl. Michigan State is looking to improve from a 2-5 record last season. One of those wins came against Northwestern. There is no doubt Pat Fitzgerald is one of the best coaches in the country, but only returning 34% of overall production is concerning. The Wildcats do have one of the best defensive linemen returning in Adetomiwa Adebawore, but he will need newcomers to fill in and make an impact. Mel Tucker returns 7 starters on both offense and defense. Both need to be more consistent if the Spartans want to make a bowl game.
Verdict: (Michigan State +3) Look for Northwestern to take a step back this season. I expect them to start slow because they will be replacing a ton of production. This could be completely different in a month or two, but Michigan State should settle in much earlier giving Sparty a Week 1 win in Evanston.
Michigan State 27- Northwestern 24