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UNC vs. Georgia Tech: Three Things to Watch

It’s time for the Tar Heels to finish strong at home.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Wake Forest Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The North Carolina Tar Heels continue to get it done. As the team returns to Chapel Hill for the final two games of the regular season, there is still work to do on both sides of the ball.

But the fact of the matter is this Carolina team does not quit. The Tar Heels find a way to win, and this perseverance allows UNC to be Coastal division champions forever.

This weekend against Georgia Tech may not feel like a trap game, but it sure has all the makings of one: overwhelming favorites at home the week after a historic win.

Here are a few things to look for when UNC takes on GT Saturday evening.

Red Zone

Carolina is third in the ACC in red zone scoring percentage. The offense has scored points on 43 of 49 trips to the red zone, and only six of those were field goals. This means that 86 of the scores are touchdowns.

Sure, this is good. But with an ACC Championship on the line, the Tar Heels need to be killers in the red zone.

Here is the measuring stick: Clemson is fourth in the nation in red zone percentage with 43 scores in 45 trips. However, their touchdown rate is 74 percent. There’s an opportunity there for the Tar Heels.

Let’s go back to last week to the critical third quarter drive after Wake Forest took their first lead of the game.

The Tar Heels were rolling down the field in that subsequent drive. UNC did not face a third down until reaching the red zone.

With a first and goal at the eight, Carolina failed to score even with three shots from the one-yard line.

Without the defense stepping up with their own stand on the next drive, UNC’s failure to score in such a critical moment could have been devasting.

Cam’Ron Kelly’s interception was a championship play. The next play after the interception was a championship play, as Drake Maye got it to Josh Downs for the near score.

But once again, the offense sputtered with a first and goal from the five.

The defense stepped up after the offense settled for a field goal, but the Tar Heels missed out on putting a death grip on the game with touchdowns mere yards from the end zone.

Let’s see what changes offensive coordinator Phil Longo makes in the red zone, if any, this weekend.

Stop the Run

Georgia Tech will be without their top two quarterbacks on Saturday. Jeff Sims, who tallied his career-high in single-game rushing yards against the Tar Heels last season, is out for the season with a foot injury.

Backup QB Zach Pyron has a broken collarbone and is also out for the year.

Zach Gibson, a Georgia native, and Akron transfer will take over the starting job.

Last season, Gibson led Akron with 1,262 passing yards and 10 touchdowns in seven games. He threw for 69.4 percent with no interceptions.

Even with Gibson’s experience, the scouting report will point to the run game as the centerpiece of the offensive game plan.

Focusing on the run game against Carolina has helped other teams start strong. Most notably, Virginia ranked near the bottom of the ACC in rushing yards per game.

The Cavaliers had success on the ground and ended the day with 186 rushing yards, which is well above their average.

Be on the lookout for running backs Hassan Hall and Dontae Smith to carry the load for the GT offense.

Exceed Expectations

The Tar Heels are 21-point favorites over the Yellow Jackets. The oddsmakers have not favored UNC this heavily since the opening game versus Florida A&M.

The curse of above average Carolina football teams has been playing to the level of their competition.

This team needs to finish the season strong. Head coach Mack Brown mentioned in his press conference this week that UNC needs to put together a full game.

Again- do not fall into the trap game, but this should be an opportunity for the Tar Heels to work on putting together that full 60-minute effort.

Oh, and a certain player on offense will also benefit from that type of complete effort versus one of the lowest-performing defenses in the ACC.