North Carolina at Georgia Tech, 12:00 PM, ESPN
Carolina makes a trip to
the Twilight Zone Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech and you can forgive UNC fans for being a little nervous.First, the Tar Heels never seem to play well in Atlanta regardless of the sport. Second, UNC under three different coaches in the Paul Johnson era have never seemed to figure out the Yellow Jackets despite having a bye week and thus extra time to prepare for the 3rd time in the last four years. For what it's worth, Carolina had a bye week last year before giving up a school-record 68 points to Georgia Tech. And third, this UNC hasn't really seemed to find its identity yet. The Heels enter the game with a 1-1 record and have looked pretty good at times and not so good at times.
The Jackets, meanwhile seem to have found their groove. Tech (2-0) pounded Elon 70-0 in the season opener before laying a 38-14 smackdown on Duke last weekend. Quarterback and Durham Hillside product Vad Lee, who had his coming-out party against Carolina last season, has settled in Johnson's offense and has Tech humming. Granted the Jackets have not faced an opponent like UNC thus far, but Tech is averaging a crisp 350+ yards on the ground and another 150 through the air, as Lee provides a throwing threat that prevents opponents from packing 9 or 10 in the box to try to stop the option attack. Defensively, former Duke head coach Ted Roof, who reinvented himself as a defensive guru, is now the Jackets' defensive coordinator and he will be tasked with slowing down the Heels, who it should be remembered hung 50 points on Tech in last season's shootout.
For Carolina's part, the Heels will be well-served to get the passing and running game producing at the same times. The running game looked fairly solid against South Carolina but not so much against Middle Tennessee, while the passing game was the opposite. Yet scoring does not seem to be on UNC's collective mind as the defensive prowess. Simply put, UNC will have to get Tech off the field with some regularity on Saturday to have a shot at knocking off the Jackets. Last year they couldn't do that and that is a great example of what happens when your offense scores 50 - FIFTY! - points and still loses by 18.
This is the beginning of a crucial, brutal four-game stretch where the Heels play the 3 other top teams in the Coastal Division plus a Kobayashi Maru game against ECU, who played the offensively-challenged Virginia Tech Hokies in a close game last week. Knocking off Tech here would be a great start and might set the tone for the following games.
On the other hand, it's easy to be pessimistic when UNC hasn't won in Atlanta since 1996, for a total of 7 consecutive road losses in the series. Consider the pessimism continued until shown otherwise.
Georgia Tech 44, UNC 38