What: Coastal Division Elimination Game
Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
When: Saturday, November 8th, 12:00 PM
TV: Raycom aka The Ron Cherry Network
Records: UNC 6-2, 2-2 ACC; GT 7-2, 4-2 ACC
Loser does not pass Go, does not collect $200.
UNC got no help from Maryland with their craptastic performance at Blacksburg leaving VT's ability to win the division over UNC intact. Despite this, UNC still has business on the field and would have regardless of what happened Thursday night or what might happen later in the day when UVa hits BB&T Field in Winston-Salem.
In a season that has been full of crucial games/moments, the Heels face yet another big game with the division leader coming to town. With five teams in the Coastal harboring two losses, anyone taking a third will be effectively eliminated from making it to Tampa. The loser of this game will be in that boat. The question facing UNC is whether they can show up and close the deal as they did versus Notre Dame and Boston College or squander the game away ala the games versus the Virginia schools.
One positive off the bat is UNC had the bye week to prepare for the triple option offense of Paul Johnson. It is a bit of a suprise how well the Yellow Jackets have played acclimating quickly to the new offense which is a pain to defend. Among the concerns for the Heels is the fact GT tends to be very limited in their use of the pass which is where UNC has been able to force turnovers via the INT. For UNC the defense has to be ready to played discipline football up front and stop the run. The trick to stopping the triple option lies in the abilities of the defenders to make good reads while not "staying home." Hence the benefit of the extra week for UNC to get a grasp how this offense works.
On the other side of the ball, I expect Cam Sexton to start and play the whole game. UNC's offensive line will have it's hands full dealing with a stout Yellow Jacket defensive front. Given how well the Heels handled the Boston College defensive line which was big and capable of causing headaches in pass protection, there is a good chance they can do the same with the GT line. Getting Shaun Draughan off and running would help to keep the passing game opened up but if not a steady diet of Hakeem Nicks will work wonders. And if Nicks is covered look for Greg Little perhaps to finally have a breakout game at WR since he has now had enough time to learn that part of the offense.
I know it seems like every game UNC has played at home this season with the exception of the one versus McNeese State carried some significance for the football program. VT, UConn, Notre Dame and Boston College were all considered crucial games to determine if the program was ready to make the next step upward or could reasonable bounce back from a bad loss. In all but one of those games UNC came through the fire to establish a new level of growth for the program. This game is much the same and more. UNC is in a do or die situation in terms of winning the division. Granted, losing the division is by no means a black mark on this 2nd season of the Butch Davis Era but winning it would set the standard and expectation fairly high up. And that is a good thing.
#19 UNC 24 #20 GT 21