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UNC Football: Players to Watch - Week one

A look at the players to watch when UNC takes on Georgia Saturday

NCAA Football: Delaware at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, September 3rd the North Carolina Tar Heels will matchup against the Georgia Bulldogs on a essentially home field neutral field in Atlanta, Georgia. This is arguably one of the toughest opponents UNC will face this year. This game will feature a whole lot of top tier talent, so we thought we would narrow it down and take a look at the players to watch for this game.

Georgia Player to Watch: Nick Chubb

This is the obvious choice for many reasons. The first being that Chubb is returning from one of the visually worst injuries someone can sustain, when he tore his PCL and two other ligaments in October of last year. It will be very interesting to see if Chubb is in full form or not come Saturday. It will be even more interesting to see if the Tar Heel defense can slow down Chubb, who was averaging 8.1 yards per carry, and 159 ypg, through the first five games before his injury last year.

A whole lot rides on this matchup. This is year 2 of Gene Chizik’s defense, and Tar Heel fans want to see improvement on the defensive side of the ball, especially the run defense that ranked 121st last year, and gave up 247.4 ypg. The Heels return a bulk of the players from the defensive line and secondary so expectations for this unit are high, despite last year’s embarrassing bowl game performance in which the Heels gave up 645 rushing yards against a wide receiver-turned-quarterback led Baylor team.

Georgia no longer is going to start a true freshman at quarterback, like many thought. This does take some pressure off of Chubb, as Greyson Lambert has more experience at the quarterback position. However, the fact that a freshman quarterback dueled for the starting position with Lambert this late into the offseason shows either the lack of confidence in Lambert, or the large amount of confidence in the freshman. Either way, it has to be a little bit of both. That being said, Chubb will have to help take the pressure off of Lambert. This pressure is heightened more by the fact that Chubb’s back up, Sony Michel, won’t play due to an injury sustained this summer.

The marquee matchup for this game is Nick Chubb vs. the UNC defense. Whoever wins this matchup may decide who comes out on top Saturday.

UNC Player to Watch: Mitch Trubisky

Another very obvious choice, but the pressure rides on Mitch. This is his team now and he will be playing in the toughest environment he has ever seen before. He has been blessed with a spectacular group of wide receivers, one of the nation’s top running backs, and an experienced o-line.

Everyone has touched on the fact that Trubisky has all the skills necessary to lead UNC to another Coastal division title. Everyone assumes UNC won’t skip a beat with the loss of Marquise Williams, because Mitch has looked fantastic in his limited action under center. All of this has to add an enormous amount of pressure to Trubisky.

On top of all of this is the added pressure that UNC’s defense may force onto Trubisky. If they can’t stop Georgia and Nick Chubb, pressure will be put on the UNC offense to out score Georgia.

Another reason to watch Trubisky is because of Georgia’s defense. Georgia returns virtually everyone to a secondary that ranked #1 in passing yards allowed last year with 156.5 yards per game, and gave up a total of 11 passing touchdowns all season. The crazy part is that Georgia ousted their coach and brought in arguably the best defensive mind in all of college football, with the hiring of Kirby Smart. Smart led Alabama into the top 10 of defensive efficiency over the past four years. If this defense is anything close to those vaunted Alabama defenses that we are so used to seeing, Trubisky may have his hands full all afternoon.

I’m not saying Trubisky can’t live up to the enormous expectations placed on him. I’m just saying that he is going to encounter types of pressure that no player or team has seen at UNC in the last 20 years. The types of pressure go beyond the Georgia game, but combating these pressures starts September 3rd.

Nick Chubb and Mitch Trubisky are equally the two most important players to watch for this matchup. They could both have enormous success in Atlanta. Georgia will go as Chubb goes, and Carolina will go as Trubisky goes. The outcome of the game just may rest upon their shoulders.