The University of North Carolina will face off against the Georgia Bulldogs on a “neutral” field in Atlanta, Georgia in just 42 short days. Between now and then there will be much speculation as to what the main keys and focus to the game are. We decided to start that conversation off with three keys for the Tar Heels to come out victorious.
Specifically, rushing defense. It still remains to be seen if Georgia’s stud running back Nick Chubb will be ready for the season opener against the Tar Heels. Chubb started the season off last year with five straight 100 plus yard games before his gruesome injury occurred in week six that sidelined him for the rest of the season.
We also found out recently that Chubb’s replacement last season, Sony Michel, a 1,000 yard back last year, broke his arm and won’t play in the season opener against UNC. The Heels rushing defense ranked 121 out of a possible 127 teams last year, giving up 5.13 yards per carry and 247.4 yard per game. Carolina may face a 3rd string running back, but if Chubb is even close to 100% ready, the Heels could have their hands full on defense.
2. Offensive Line
Georgia is coming off of a 10-win season that boasted the 7th ranked total defense. Despite all of this, they are bringing in famed defensive minded coach Kirby Smart to be the head coach of their program. Smart led the Alabama defense into the top 10 of defensive efficiency over the past four years. All this being said, the offensive line needs to protect Mitch Trubisky, and open up lanes for Elijah Hood.
If the line can create lanes for Hood, that could be huge for Trubisky, seeing as a consistent run game to lean on is a quarterback’s best friend. I’m not saying that Trubisky is inexperienced, because the guy has seen a fair amount of playing time already at UNC. I am saying that I do not think he has played in front of such a tough environment, and on such a big stage, compared to what he will experience in Georgia.
This will be arguably the best defense Trusbisky has ever faced, therefore, added protection and getting the ground game going will be extremely important for the Tar Heels. The pressure will be high for this unit to perform, especially with the recent injury to John Ferranto.
3. Wide Receivers
Georgia’s strength will be its secondary, which is returning virtually everyone, including, All-SEC team safety Dominick Sanders. North Carolina’s receivers must find ways to create separation and get open against the reigning number one pass defense, which gave up just 156.5 yards per game. This will be the most exciting matchup to watch in my personal opinion. North Carolina boasts one of the best wide receiver trios in the country with the law firm of Switzer, Hollins, and Howard. It will be a treat to watch these three receivers go up against one of the best secondaries in the country.
This game is really pitting strength vs. strength. UNC’s high-octane offense against Georgia’s stout defense. Both teams have not seen another team like the one they are going to face in Georgia. There really is not a team in the ACC with as tough a defense as Georgia. There also is not a team in the SEC that boats as high-powered an offense as UNC. This polar opposite matchup should create one of the better contests of the opening college football weekend.
UNC needs to limit Georgia’s run game, protect Trubisky and create running room for Hood, as well as win the battle with Georgia’s secondary. If they can do all these tasks, then the odds will be in their favor in Atlanta September 3rd.