Game Preview: UNC at Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech after a delay of one year gets to play in Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Mayhem in the Benz as they face #21 North Carolina. We take a look at the matchup and what to expect on Saturday night downtown in Atlanta.
North Carolina (2-1, 1-1) vs. Georgia Tech (1-2, 0-1)
At Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Date and Time: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
TV: ACC Network, ESPN App, WatchESPN.com
Radio: Xtra 106.3 FM/1230 AM/Sirius 111/XM 193
Last Week: Georgia Tech lost at Clemson 14-8, North Carolina defeated Virginia 59-39 at home
Series History: Georgia Tech leads 30-22-3
Last Meeting: North Carolina won 38-22 on Oct. 5, 2019
Stat Comparison: Points per game (Georgia Tech 24.7, North Carolina 42.7), Points allowed per game (Georgia Tech 17.7, North Carolina 24.3), Total offense (Georgia Tech 379.7 yards per game, North Carolina 553.3 yards per game), Total defense (Georgia Tech 285.7 yards per game, North Carolina 381.3 yards per game)
GEORGIA TECH Key Offensive Players: Jahmyr Gibbs (RB, Fr.), Devin Cochran (LT, RS-Sr.), Malachi Carter (WR, Jr.)
NORTH CAROLINA Key Offensive Players: Sam Howell (QB, Jr.), Josh Downs (WR, Soph.), Joshua Ezeudu (LG, Jr.)
GEORGIA TECH Key Defensive Players: Quez Jackson (LB, Jr.), Djimon Brooks (DT, RS-Sr.), Zamari Walton (CB, RS-Soph.)
NORTH CAROLINA Key Defensive Players: Myles Murphy (DT, Soph.), Tony Grimes (CB, Soph.), Ja’Qurious Conley (SS, Soph.)
Game Preview Analysis: Some folks do not believe in moral victories, but most can agree that last week’s narrow loss to Clemson was at least a step in the right direction for Georgia Tech and Geoff Collins. The Jackets competed and fought all the way to the bitter end, and that’s all that you can ask for from a team that had as disappointing a start to the season as Tech did.
But now it’s time to turn the page and take the next step toward being a consistent football team. Collins and the Jackets must follow up last week’s performance with another steady one or the good will earned in the gritty effort at Clemson will be all but lost. The task isn’t an easy one by any means, however, as Georgia Tech welcomes North Carolina to Mercedes-Benz Stadium as this will be the first of the Jackets’ five games contracted to be played just down the road at the home of the Falcons and United.
The Tar Heels have bounced back from a disappointing opening game of their own with two straight huge performances, especially on the offensive side. Just last week, they put up 59 points on ACC rival Virginia.
Quarterback Sam Howell is a big-time player that many had on the short list before the season as a Heisman candidate. He will test defenses with his ability to make any throw on the field, including probably the best deep ball in college football. He has the ability to use his legs to frustrate opposing defensive coordinators as well, and there are plenty of playmakers on the outside that Howell has the option of using, including slot receiver and former Georgia Tech recruiting target Josh Downs, who has exploded onto the scene so far in 2021.
If there is one area of concern for the Heels’ offense, it is in the running game as they are breaking in some new backs and offensive lineman due to several moving on to graduation or the NFL after last season.
On the defensive side of the ball, Carolina is young but plenty talented. The defensive line has some playmakers. They aren’t as good as Clemson, but they are still one of the top groups up front on defense in the ACC. The secondary is also stacked with young studs after Mack Brown’s incredible recruiting efforts since he arrived back in Chapel Hill.
Georgia Tech’s offense has shown flashes of breaking out, and this is a great week to put it all together, whether that is with Jordan Yates or Jeff Sims at quarterback. The way the Jackets’ deep and talented running back group has been contained so far this year makes many think they are due for a breakout game with some big plays from the likes of Gibbs, Mason, Smith or Griffin. That’s going to take better and more consistent offensive line play though.
The Jackets’ defense has been improved in the last couple weeks, but this is the biggest test they have faced as they get ready for Howell and Company. It’s time for Tech’s defensive lineman to affect the passer or it could be another explosive night for the Heels’ passing game.
All things considered, don’t be surprised if Georgia Tech comes out with another passionate effort with a chance to win it in the fourth quarter. The Tar Heels have a little more depth and moxie in the end on Saturday night, and Collins will still be looking for his signature win to point to for the Jackets’ turnaround.
Prediction: North Carolina wins, 38-31.