It is Homecoming Week in Chapel Hill. Coming off of their bye week, UNC returns on Saturday to play at home for the first time since October 8th. The game vs. Georgia Tech is slated for kickoff at 12:30, which ends the no-noon games streak. The Heels will look to continue their two game winning streak both in the 2016 season and against the Yellow Jackets.
As noted by Matt Ferenchick in his article last week, UNC has not performed well in recent years after a bye week. The Tar Heels are 1-3 in the Larry Fedora era, and 0-2 against Georgia Tech after a bye week.
The Heels will need to play well defensively in order to get the victory on Saturday. The defense has shown improvement in recent weeks, having given up only 13 and 14 points in their two most recent wins. Plus, they have limited their last two opponents to only 139 yards and 110 yards on the ground. The defensive line will have their work cut out for them adjusting to the cut blocks (every opposing fan’s favorite part of the Paul Johnson offense), which is something that the extra few days of practice will hopefully help with. If the defense can also force the Yellow Jackets into 3rd-and-long, get some stops or turnovers, and keep Georgia Tech’s offense off the field, it should lead to a win for the Heels.
The UNC offense will need to do its part in keeping the Georgia Tech offense on the sideline by sustaining long drives and converting on third downs. The Heels are currently 20th in the country in third down conversion percentage at 47.7%. The offense will also look to continue mixing up the play-calling, as they have had success in recent weeks with not being too pass-heavy. Elijah Hood looks to be fully healthy after the extra week of rest, but he will need to protect the ball in order for Carolina to be successful.
With possessions being so valuable against the Yellow Jackets, UNC cannot turn the ball over. They had two turnovers in the game against Virginia, so it will be critical to correct those mistakes against a team where possessions are usually limited. In last year’s game against Georgia Tech, UNC did not turn the ball over, while at the same time forcing two Yellow Jacket turnovers.
The Yellow Jackets hung on to defeat Duke last week 38-35, and sit at 2-3 in the Coastal Division. Justin Thomas threw a touchdown pass late in the 4th quarter to put Georgia Tech up for good, after they had led throughout much of the game before giving up the lead. They will look to keep pace with the division leading Hokies and Heels, with two upcoming games against each team.
Thomas had four touchdowns in the game against Duke and 459 yards of total offense. He will need to have another big game, both on the ground and through the air, in order for the Jackets to keep up with the high-powered UNC offense.
Paul Johnson and the Georgia Tech triple-option offense has usually given the Tar Heels fits in recent years. The Yellow Jackets’ offensive line will need to control the line of scrimmage and exploit UNC’s weakness, the defensive line (despite their improvement in recent weeks). UNC still gives up 202.8 yards rushing per game, while Georgia Tech is 2nd in the ACC in rushing yards per game at 247.6. Look for Johnson to run the ball often (obviously) and control the clock, in order to keep UNC’s offense on the sideline.
UNC will win if...
- They don’t turn the ball over.
- They can get an early lead.
- They win the 3rd Down Conversion Battle, and keep the Georgia Tech offense on the sideline.
Georgia Tech will win if...
- They force UNC turnovers.
- Justin Thomas has another big game, like the one he had against Duke.
- Their offensive line controls the line of scrimmage.
UNC Injury Report
Out - Jaye Stackhouse, J.B. Copeland
Questionable - Dajaun Drennon, Tomon Fox
Probable - Jon Heck
Uniform Combination for Saturday’s Game
-Note: This is the same uniform combination that they wore last year in the victory over Georgia Tech.