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Game Preview: Georgia Tech

In year 11 of the Paul Johnson era, am I telling you anything new here?

NCAA Football: Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech Lee Luther Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

One of my favorite things about college football is the level of cognitive dissonance I can reach in my rooting interests, on a week-to-week basis. I’ve always loathed Georgia Tech, but sang their praises far and wide as they racked up 465 rushing yards last Thursday while upsetting Virginia Tech. The Hokies register a good bit higher on my hate meter.

Now, this week, the disdain is renewed, and we’re here to address the early-moving, chop-blocking, frustrating-as-hell Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.

Keys to Beating Georgia Tech

Listen, I could write 1,000 words about matchups, but the formula to beating the Yellow Jackets remains the same as their roster has been fairly plug-and-play since Chan Gailey’s recruits (Jonathan Dwyer, Demaryius Thomas, Josh Nesbitt, Morgan Burnett, etc.) cycled out. So...

  • Get them behind the chains on first down. Easier said than done, as they rank 2nd in the country in success rate on offense, 1st in that category rushing the ball, and 3rd-best in stuff rate, at a paltry 11.7%. (All per Bill Connolly’s S&P+.)
  • Force turnovers. Tech is averaging over 34 minutes per game of possession, a number that seems low given the Heels’ historical trouble keeping them off the field.
  • Their defense, after three years ranking right in the middle of the pack per S&P (57th to 65th from 2015-2017), has tanked, currently ranking 103rd. They’re really pretty awful at everything across the board, so the Carolina offense has to match them drive for drive.

Carolina had three scoring drives against UVA, totaling 247 yards. They managed 90 yards in all other possessions. Whatever the Heels find that works (the larger the Nathan Elliott sample gets, the less there seems to be), the Heels need to stick to it, not get cute, and keep the sticks moving. Three-and-outs are absolute killers against Georgia Tech.

Defensively, the strategy that I’ve seen work with the most consistency is having awesome talent on the defensive line. Clemson, Georgia, and some Miami teams have had sustained success by shooting gaps and creating havoc behind the LOS. Given that Carolina is not of that caliber...pray for bad exchanges at mesh points and pitches.

Making matters worse is the attrition the Heels face up front. Aaron Crawford made it all of 5 snaps against UVA, Tomon Fox is serving the last game of his suspension from shoe-gate, and freshman Chris Collins was pressed into extensive action as a last line of defense against the ‘Hoos.

The battle of the Techs was a coming-out party for quarterback Tobias Oliver, as he had 215 yards and three TD’s on 40 carries— but apparently TaQuon Marshall will get the start in Chapel Hill. We’ll see both quarterbacks, but to my eye Oliver is the next “he’s still here? DAMNIT!” quarterback at Georgia Tech, a la Nesbitt and Justin Thomas.

This is not the best Georgia Tech team, but like I said, much more detail would constitute a rehash of pretty much everything that you, the ACC connoisseur, already knows.

Outlook

With better quarterback play, I’d be pretty confident in the Heels’ ability to match the Jackets, taking advantage of their porous defense.

Carolina’s going to score some points against Tech, something they failed miserably at doing last year. If they can turn scoring opportunities into points (the Heels are currently DEAD LAST in success rate inside the opponents’ 30), we have a ballgame.

Unless Jace Ruder (whose redshirt is now officially preserved) gets the surprise start and gives us a freshman year Joe Montana performance, I don’t see the 2018 Heels doing what needs to be done to put enough points on the board.

Georgia Tech 38, North Carolina 27