North Carolina vs Georgia Tech, 3:30 PM, ESPNU
Consider the two ominous historical facts. Since Mack Brown left near the end of the 1997 season, UNC has won its ACC opener just twice and during that same span has zero wins over Georgia Tech in Atlanta. Tossing these trends on the pile with UNC's run defense, Georgia Tech coming off a loss and really, really needing to avoid a third loss and second in ACC play, the signs don't looked particularly kind for UNC today.
In all likelihood UNC will need to win a shootout since UNC's history of stopping the triple option and the present state of the run defense will make limiting Georgia Tech's offensive production difficult. It will also be incredibly important for the Tar Heels to make the most of every offensive drive and get points out of each of them. Paul Johnson's offense controls the football with the best of them. UNC cannot afford any quick three and outs or they risk watching a whole quarter go by with just a couple of minutes of possession. The worst case scenario for the Tar Heels is an opening Yellow Jacket drive that consumes six minutes, UNC going three and out in less then two minutes then Georgia Tech eating the rest of the opening quarter up to put the Heels down 10-14 points.
If UNC can having some surprising success against the triple option and put together a couple of scoring drives to grab the lead, Georgia Tech cannot afford to be so stingy controlling the football. The Yellow Jackets would then need to go to the air and away from the strength of the offense. Getting a couple of stops might afford the defense some much needed confidence against an offense that has been nearly unstoppable versus UNC over the years.
After last week's troubles for Marquise Williams, all eyes will be on what kind of leash Larry Fedora has his senior quarterback on. The Yellow Jackets don't defend the run well so Williams should have his chances to use his legs and Elijah Hood should be utilized as much as possible. In that respect UNC can exercise a little ball control itself though there are limits to that given the pace Larry Fedora prefers. Should Williams falter and UNC again "need a spark" it stands to reason Mitch Trubisky will get another shot.
Losing this game is not a disaster for UNC but winning it would position the Tar Heels well heading into the bye week. The Tar Heels host Wake Forest and Virginia after next week's bye then travel to Pitt before facing Duke on November 7th. Those middle three games are winnable and should UNC find a way to buck the trend here, a shot at controlling the Coastal Division is there to be grasped.
North Carolina 38 Georgia Tech 35