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UNC Football: Georgia Tech Game Preview

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Can the Heels get a win going into the bye?

Georgia Tech v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

When Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence took a knee to end Carolina’s 21-20 loss last Saturday, it marked the first time all season where the game’s outcome was not in doubt going into the final snap.

North Carolina travels to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech tomorrow, and its high time a game be put away early.

Date/Time: October 5, 2019, 4:00pm
TV: ACC Network
Line: North Carolina -10.5, O/U 48.5

What’s at stake?

Carolina has enjoyed just one victory at Bobby Dodd in the past 22 seasons, the heroic Marquise Williams-led comeback in 2015.

For the Tar Heels, the hopes of at least getting bowl-eligible would be severely negatively impacted with an upset loss. This game is the start of a stretch of games that the Tar Heels should win, and they need to take advantage.

For the Yellow Jackets...yeesh. This is about as year zero as a year zero can get, as Geoff Collins inherited a roster built to run the triple option. They’re not going bowling, but they need some proof of concept. They beat a horrendous South Florida team 14-10, but have since lost to The Citadel and scored two points at Temple last week.

North Carolina Offense vs. Georgia Tech Defense

The Yellow Jackets have some playmakers in Charlie Thomas, Bruce Jordan-Swilling, and Tre Swilling, but rank a fairly pedestrian 72nd in yards per play on defense— and again, that’s against a pretty average schedule thus far.

They’ve only notched 6 sacks in their first four contests, rank 98th with just 22 tackles for loss, and are producing 1.25 turnovers a game. This is a game where, ideally, the Heels give the ball to Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, and Antonio Williams 60 times, and let Sam Howell seek big plays when Tech stacks the box. Its time for the offense to come out of its shell.

North Carolina Defense vs. Georgia Tech Offense

Tech has played three quarterbacks almost perfectly interchangably, and none of them have been particularly good. Freshman James Graham and sophomore Tobias Oliver are both completing less than 50% of their passes, and Lucas Johnson’s throws are going for a paltry 4.7 yards per attempt.

In a callback to the Paul Johnson era, Oliver is the team’s leading rusher with 264 yards on 51 attempts, edging out running back Jordan Mason’s 257. The strength (if you can call it that) of the Tech O is keeping it on the ground, and their goal will be to spread the Heels wide and find space for ballcarriers.

Similar to what I wrote about the Carolina offense, this needs to be a showcase game of sorts. Tech’s offense ranks 118th in yards per play. For context, the teams behind them are as follows:

  • Bowling Green
  • UConn
  • UMass
  • Nevada
  • Tulsa
  • Rice
  • Georgia Southern
  • UTSA
  • Old Dominion
  • Northwestern
  • Miami (Ohio)

Those teams are a combined 13-31, so maybe not the company you want to keep if you’re the Yellow Jackets.

Look for the Heels to continue to evolve and diversify their pressures under Jay Bateman, as they introduced some interesting concepts such as blitzes from the secondary and aggressive stants and stunts on the D-line against Clemson.

X-Factor

Turnovers. It shouldn’t be a terribly rowdy road environment, but for Georgia Tech to have a shot in this game, I think the Heels would have to be -3 in sudden change plays.

Outlook

This game makes me nervous simply because we have not seen the Tar Heels put an opponent to bed thus far this season. As they’ve likely played 5 of their 6 toughest opponents already, that is probably not the biggest concern— but it is an opportunity for the next step in the evolution of an emerging team.

I’m thinking the Heels will feel the Jackets out for a bit in the first quarter, then put their feet on the accelerator.

Its time to make a statement.

North Carolina 41, Georgia Tech 15