It’s all going so well for No. 13 North Carolina. Now the tar heels just need the finishing touches.
It’s a two-game home stretch to wrap up the regular season, which begins Saturday against Georgia Tech in Chapel Hill, NC
The Tar Heels (9-1, 6-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) have already reserved a spot in the ACC championship game, while redshirt quarterback Drake Maye has emerged as the underdog in the Heisman Trophy debate.
“Probably the best thing about this team is that they’re not remotely happy with the way they’re playing,” said coach Mack Brown. “They were a team that was very susceptible to criticism.”
North Carolina is 9-1 for the fourth time since 1980, so this is a special area.
Georgia Tech (4-6, 3-4) needs to win one of its last two games — against the Tar Heels and No. 1 Georgia — to qualify for the Bowl.
“It’s a big challenge for us this weekend,” said interim coach Brent Key. “We are looking forward to it.”
The Yellow Jackets are 3-3 under Key. Wins include a road win at then-#24 Pittsburgh, so the potential is there.
Georgia Tech uses quarterback Zach Gibson with Jeff Sims, who was huge in North Carolina’s excitement last year, is absent from the team for the remainder of the season with a foot injury, and Zach Pyron has done for the campaign as well. Pyron broke his collarbone in last weekend’s 35-14 loss to Miami.
Key said it was imperative that the Yellow Jackets find ways to run the ball against the Tar Heels.
North Carolina has been involved in numerous close games. Too many, according to Brown.
“We just can’t step on the gas and send someone away,” he said. “And then it’s like we go to sleep for a while. I do not know. It’s something that can beat you.”
North Carolina could benefit from developing a killer instinct. With all of Maye’s temporary success, elements are missing from the fast attack.
“There’s a certain tenacity that you have to have in the red zone run game,” Brown said.
Given Georgia Tech’s impressive 45-22 win at last year’s meeting in Atlanta, this game should get the Tar Heels’ attention.
“I watched it (Monday) tomorrow and it made me throw up,” Brown said of last year’s game.
Motivation for the Yellow Jackets abounds.
“They’re still fighting for a bowl bid, so they’re going to come in here and give us the best chance they have,” Brown said.
Maye threw for the best 448 yards of the season at Wake Forest last week. He also led the Tar Heels in the rushing for the fifth time this year.
North Carolina receiver Josh Downs set an ACC record for a three-game stretch with 37 passes. Depending on the status of receiver Antoine Green, who is struggling with an upper-body injury, could be busier than normal.
“They took him to different places to get these matchups with him,” Key said of Downs. “He’s a dynamic guy.”
North Carolina linebacker Cedric Gray leads the ACC with 10.8 tackles per game.
–Field level media