Georgia Tech is back on the road for the last two games of the season and both games will be played against strong opponents. The Yellow Jackets head to Chapel Hill to take on a North Carolina team trying to prove they belong in the college football playoffs.
Let’s take a closer look at the Coastal Division rivals’ matchup.
There will be a stark contrast at the quarterback position on Saturday. Georgia Tech will be without both Zach Pyron and Jeff Sims, and the depth chart released this week listed Zach Gibson as a starter. I wouldn’t be surprised if Clemson brought Taisun Phommachanh into the game this weekend. Quarterback running game has been important for Georgia Tech this season, and Phommachanh is the superior runner compared to Gibson.
Gibson has not played well in his time on the field. He was sacked seven times against Virginia and failed to catch a first down in two series against Florida State. When Gibson starts slow, Phommahcanh can come into play. He hasn’t taken a snap this season.
Although Georgia Tech’s offense hasn’t been good this season, they will face one of the worst defenses in the country. North Carolina is last in the ACC in pass defense and 13th in run defense. The Tar Heels are near the bottom of the country when it comes to losses, and that’s good news for a struggling offense.
The Yellow Jackets attack plan should be to run the ball and hope they can catch some positive looks in the passing game. Keeping Tar Heels’ high-scoring offense off the field will be of paramount importance.
The run game was solid against Virginia Tech but didn’t pick up steam against Miami. Pyron was the biggest run threat against Miami and without him the running backs will have to take the lead. The depth chart listed Dontae Smith, Hassan Hall and Dylan McDuffie as co-starters. Smith, Hall and newcomer Jamie Felix were the ball carriers last week and I expect a similar rotation this week.
Lately the passing game has been Nate McCollum or bust. McCollum has 100 yards in two straight games and will likely lead the team in goals again. North Carolina has talented defenders like Tony Grimes, Storm Duck and Cam’Ron Kelly, but they couldn’t stop opposing passes.
EJ Jenkins, Malachi Carter, Leo Blackburn or one of the other receivers needs to step up and make life easier for the starting quarterback.
The offensive line hasn’t been very good this season, but North Carolina doesn’t have an impressive defense. The Tar Heels are struggling to put pressure on the quarterback and this is an opportunity for the line to outperform.
Georgia Tech’s defense will have quite a challenge on Saturday. Heisman hopeful Drake Maye is leading an offense in North Carolina that leads the ACC in scoring and passing, and this will be the strongest offense the Yellow Jackets have faced.
Whether it’s the run or the pass, North Carolina has opportunities to capitalize on a defense. Maye is the lead rusher on the team, but Omarion Hampton, Elijah Green, and Caleb Hood are good runners.
Josh Downs is the top receiver in North Carolina and, with Maye, forms one of the top quarterback receiver duos in the country. Antoine Green is Carolina’s biggest threat and can score from anywhere on the field.
Downs can take over this game if he gets the opportunity, and the Yellow Jackets secondary needs to make sure they know where he is. Downs loves to operate off the slot and that’s where you can expect to see him.
If Georgia Tech is looking to stop that offense, the line of defense could be key. Keion White and D’Quan Douse provided disruptions up front, and North Carolina’s offensive line is the unit’s weak point.
The only felonies Georgia Tech has faced that compare to North Carolina are Ole Miss and Florida State. Ole Miss is a more run-heavy attack, while Florida State performs well in both phases of the game. The Seminoles put on for over 600 yards and Ole Miss had 547. That doesn’t bode well for what’s to come in this game.
If Georgia Tech can’t pressure Maye, it’s going to be a long game.
How to see Georgia Tech in North Carolina
who: Georgia Tech in North Carolina
When: 5:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Live broadcast: fuboTV (start free trial)
Betting odds per SI sports betting: North Carolina -21; Over/under 62.5; Moneyline: North Carolina -1786, Georgia Tech +800
RADIO: Georgia Tech Sports Network
• Play by Play: Andy Demetra
• Analyst: Joe Hamilton
• Sideline Reporter: Brandon Joseph
• In Atlanta: 680 AM / 93.7 FM The Fan
• Across Georgia: Visit RamblinWreck.com for station partner list
• Satellite: SiriusXM 387 / SiriusXM App 977
• Mobile Apps: GT Yellow Jackets, 680 The Fan, TuneIn
• Online: RamblinWreck.com, 680TheFan.com
Georgia Tech pulled a surprise surprise over North Carolina a year ago and ruined their season. Mack Brown hasn’t forgotten that either and spoke about it at his press conference this week:
“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.
If Georgia Tech wants to win, they’ll need to follow a game plan similar to last year’s. The Yellow Jackets’ defensive line and passing rush dominated the game, making North Carolina’s offense a weak unit.
The problem is that Maye is a better quarterback than Sam Howell and that offense is better than it was a year ago. Not only that, Sims played a big part in the win a year ago. He had good game on the ground and in the air, and it was perhaps his best game as a Yellow Jacket. Georgia Tech won’t have that threat on their offense this year and it’s going to hurt them.
The X-Factors in this game are running play on offense and the ability to force turnovers and create negative plays on defense. Turnovers are always a key to a defensive game plan and defensive tackle, Makius Scott discussed this week:
“Our priority is always getting the ball out. The coaching staff has really taught us this season to just go to the ball and try to create turnovers on offense and get the ball on offense as often as possible. Our focus It’s always going to be the same, just chasing the ball, through every quarterback and every team we play against.
I just don’t think Georgia Tech has the playmakers on offense to take advantage of a poor North Carolina defense. North Carolina can score on almost any defense, and the way Georgia Tech has performed against top offense this season, there’s not much reason to think they’ll successfully stop the tar heels.
I think North Carolina will run away and officially eliminate Georgia Tech from bowl competition.
Final Score: North Carolina 38, Georgia Tech 7
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