At the start of last Saturday’s game, Miami had not scored a touchdown in two straight games. Not counting turnovers, the Hurricanes scored 28 points in defense at Georgia Tech and had a solid day running the ball. After facing a difficult attack last week, the Yellow Jackets will face one of the best attacks in the country.
North Carolina’s defense? Not so much, but it might not matter given Georgia Tech’s quarterback situation right now.
The Yellow Jackets comfortably won that clash last year and it’s something Tar Heels head coach Mack Brown hasn’t forgotten:
“Georgia Tech dominated us last year, they really ruined our season. We got off to a bad start at Virginia Tech, we dominated Virginia, we go to Georgia Tech and just get killed and that’s when all the fans stopped and we were all disappointed. They totally dominated the game. Actually the score was 45-22, I checked it out this morning and it made me throw up. We had 63 rushing yards, they had 261. We gave up eight sacks for 55 yards. That means enough sacks for one season. We went fourth with our own 31 and that’s going to put you off. We lost two yards and they hit fast and they were 17 points behind turnovers.
So how do the two conference opponents fit together ahead of Saturday’s game?
Let’s take a closer look.
North Carolina Offense vs. Georgia Tech Defense.
North Carolina’s offense is one of the best in the country and they have a Heisman contender for quarterback. If I had a Heisman voice, I would give it to Drake Maye right now. He ticks all the boxes: 1) puts up big numbers, 2) plays on a competitive team, and 3) his team would be far worse without him.
Maye leads a Tar Heels Offense, ranked 2nd in SP+ and 1st in ACC, scoring straight at 40 PPG. That’s good for the country’s top ten.
Maye is leading the offense and has thrown for over 3,400 yards to go along with 34 touchdowns and three interceptions. Maye leads the ACC in passing yards by nearly 700 yards and is first in the ACC in passing efficiency and completion percentage and has thrown for the fewest interceptions. He’s the best quarterback the Yellow Jackets have faced this year.
Maye is also the team’s leading rusher with 584 yards and five touchdowns. Carolina has three rushers who have rushed for at least 250 yards this season. Omarion Hampton, Elijah Green and Caleb Hood are all solid options in the backfield. Hood leads the group with 5.8 yards per carry.
There’s no question who is the top receiver in North Carolina. Josh Downs has 74 receptions for 847 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Downs is third in the ACC in receiving yards and first in receiving and will be the number one outside threat Georgia Tech needs to keep an eye on.
Antoine Green is the big threat on this team and Georgia Tech needs to make sure he doesn’t get behind the defense. Green has 30 catches for 678 yards and is averaging nearly 23 yards per catch.
Georgia Tech hasn’t experienced many dynamic bottlenecks, but North Carolina has two good players in the position.
Bryson Nesbit and Kamari Morales have both caught over 20 passes and each have over 250 yards in reception.
North Carolina’s offensive line hasn’t been their forte this season. They’re allowed eight in sacks in the ACC and that’s in the bottom half of the country.
Georgia Tech needs to put pressure on North Carolina and hope they can get Maye to pass the ball to them. It will be crucial not to allow big plays to receivers like greens and downs. Make sure North Carolina deserves every yard and not allowing easy points is the best way for Georgia Tech to stop this North Carolina offense.
North Carolina Defense vs. Georgia Tech Offense
There’s not much good to say about this North Carolina defense. As good as his offense, his defense is on the other side.
North Carolina is 13th in rushing defense and 14th in passing defense, as well as last in sacks. The problem for Georgia Tech is they may not have a capable quarterback game to capitalize on.
With Zach Pyron out for the season and Jeff Sims indefinitely, it will likely be Zach Gibson as quarterback, but there’s a chance Clemson transfer Taiusun Phommachanh could spring into action for the first time all season.
On the North Carolina defensive line, Kevin Hester Jr. leads the unit in tackles with 37 and Jahvaree Ritzie is next at 33.
The best group in this defense are the linebackers. Cedric Gray has 107 tackles leading the team and two interceptions tied for the team lead. Gray is the most influential player on defense and will be the guy to watch on Saturday.
The secondary has talented players like Tony Grimes and Storm Duck but hasn’t been able to play consistently this year.
I would expect Georgia Tech’s offense to try to lean heavily on the ground game this weekend. The Yellow Jackets must try to make something through the air if they want to score points as the Tar Heels will stack the crate to stop the run. The offensive line has been a problem all season and needs to do well on Saturday.
This will be a tough matchup for Georgia Tech on Saturday and a lot will come down to how much the offense can score.
Georgia Tech and North Carolina begin this Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN2.
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