Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC
When: Saturday, September 18th, 12:00 PM
TV: Raycom Sports
Records: UNC 0-1, 0-0 ACC; Georgia Tech 1-1, 0-0 ACC
Two weeks ago UNC lost but it felt like they won. The offense looked good. T.J. Yates looked like somebody else. There was this optimism pervading the fan base that 14 days would be gracious plenty of time to resolve a good chunk of the cases involving the 13 players held out of the game vs LSU.
Boy were we wrong.
As of this writing, only one Tar Heel held out from the season opener has been cleared to play. Granted, having starting RB Shaun Draughn available is a big freaking deal. It is near impossible to escape the thought there should be more made totally impossible by the fact people on the message boards keep saying more players will be cleared. As it stands, Draughn is it so in that respect the offense gets a boost. However, going against Georgia Tech it is the defense and special teams which should concern you most and there no relief is being rendered.
The one positive is UNC did get two weeks to prepare for Georgia Tech. A fortunate respite in the schedule to say the least. Seeing that Butch Davis had to shuffle his coaching staff and prepare a largely inexperienced defensive line to handle an offense which drives opposing teams insane, UNC could have really used three weeks instead of the fortnight. But, hey, at least it wasn't five days.
UNC is still putting a talented defensive front on the field. The leadership and experience of Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant will be absolutely key in assisting the fairly green front four in containing the tripe option. If you recall, last season, UNC died a death of a thousand cuts. Georgia Tech ate clock while racking up massive runs of 3-4 yards each. The Jackets knew they could basically get a few yards on every play to the point Paul Johnson did not even bat an eye when it came to 4th and 2 or 4th and 3. The Yellow Jackets went for it and usually got it. This time around stopping the running game will be crucial since it will force the Jackets to throw the football and heaven knows Josh Nesbitt pretty much sucks doing that. Well, except for the fact he will face a secondary with little depth and far less talent than they guys starting on the defensive line. So forcing GT to throw the ball is usually the best formula but only if the secondary can hold down the fort.
In terms of what this game means, both teams need it to get a leg up on the ACC race. Both teams would love to not end up with two losses this early. Georgia Tech is coming off a terrible loss to Kansas which had previously lost to North Dakota St and on Friday night got beaten soundly by Southern Miss. Righting the ship has to be on the mind of Paul Johnson and his team. For UNC, given the circumstances, this is the only game among their first four that matters a darn. Given the issues UNC is face with so much personnel and uncertainty, the notion of a special season is a pipe dream for now. In light of the futility of other Coastal Division teams, UNC's goal should be to win the division. It is possible another three weeks until UNC sees another ACC opponent will be enough time to resolved a majority of the players in limbo. If UNC can get by with a win in this game then get the band back together as much as possible by the Clemson game, UNC will be in good shape to take a shot at winning the division. Losing to Georgia Tech does not preclude UNC from winning anything but it would certainly help to get a head start.
UNC 28 GT 24