(RNN) - The South's Oldest Rivalry renews Saturday when Virginia travels to Chapel Hill to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels.
The Cavaliers (2-7, 0-5 ACC) have struggled to find answers on defense during their six-game slide, including last week's 59-10 loss at home against Clemson. The team got more bad news on that side of the ball; head coach Mike London said Monday that preseason All-ACC cornerback Demetrious Nicholson would not be able to return from injury this season.
London said one of the team's main focuses for the game would be keeping the Tar Heels from getting extra scoring chances through turnovers.
"This is another offense that will have a lot of remnants to some of the teams that we played with - shifts, motions, hurry-up tempo," he said. "They'll play a couple of quarterbacks. [Eric] Ebron is their all-everything guy. He's a tight end but he's an excellent receiver that plays kind of like Jake McGee does for us out in the slot position. He's their leader on offense in terms of production and catches."
The UNC (3-5, 2-3) offense suffered a blow when they heard quarterback Bryn Renner's shoulder injury was season-ending. But head coach Larry Fedora expressed confidence in backup Marquise Williams.
The sophomore QB has seen action in the last four contests, including an 8 for 15, 92-yard passing performance with a touchdown in the 27-19 win at NC State.
"I consider Marquise a dual-threat quarterback," Fedora said Wednesday. "He can throw the ball. He throws it very well, but in the situations that we were using Marquise in a lot of times were to complement what we necessarily had with Bryn. We brought more of the quarterback runs into the offense."
The Virginia offense will lean heavily on lead runner Kevin Park, and it may try to get the ball more to freshman Taquan Mizzell. The speedster has big-play potential and got increased touches in recent weeks.
UNC still has a path to bowl eligibility but must win three of its final four games to get there. Wide receiver Quinshad Davis has emerged as a solid second option behind Ebron, with five TDs in the last five games.
Series notes: This will be the 118th meeting between the two teams. Their first game was played in 1892, and they have faced off each year since 1919. North Carolina holds a 59-54-4 advantage in the series.
Pitt (4-4, 2-3) has dropped two straight entering the game, but it has a pair of dynamic wideouts who are threats to score on any play. Devin Street, at 6' 4", has the size and talent to leap over defenders in pursuit of the ball. The Panthers use freshman Tyler Boyd's great speed on running and passing plays, as well as special teams.
The Fighting Irish (7-2) are fresh off a scare from Navy but came away with the 38-34 win. Quarterback Tyler Rees has taken over the position full-time this season, and has 22 TDs compared to eight interceptions.
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