North Carolina brings its two game winning steak to Atlanta on Saturday for a Coastal division match-up with Georgia Tech. The 21st ranked Tar Heels are 2-1 on the season, while the Yellow Jackets are 1-2 after a close loss to then #6 Clemson last week. As always, you can hear the game on WBT, with kick-off set for 7:30.
It’s kind of hard to figure this Tech team out. They finished just 3-7 year, but were expected to take a step forward in their third year under head coach Geoff Collins. They opened the season with a horrible home loss to Northern Illinois, but nearly upset the Tigers last week. So I’m guessing no one on this UNC team is overlooking them.
The Jackets use two quarterbacks in Jeff Sims and redshirt freshman Jordan Yates, who just happens to be the nephew of former Tar Heels quarterback T-J Yates. Sims is a dual threat who can make plays with his feet, but he was injured in the season opener. So Yates took over and has thrown for 592 yards and five touchdowns. He has a 1-2 punch at receiver in Kyric McGowan and Malachi Carter, both are deep threats and McGowan is 4th in the ACC with three touchdowns. The Jackets have the talent to get into a shootout with the Heels, who gave up an obnoxious 554 passing yards to the Wahoos last week.
Tech has a three pronged running attack featuring Jahmyr Gibbs, Jordan Mason and Dontae Smith. Gibbs is a scat back who also plays a big role in the passing game. Mason is a bruising back who can pick up the tough yards, and Smith is a home run threat – he’s got 121 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 carries this season. Gibbs is also an outstanding kick returner, his 26 yard per return average is tops in the ACC. Containing him will be key for the Heels.
The Yellow Jacket defense gave up big numbers last season, allowing over 450 yards and 37 points per game. So this year they’ve started sprinkling in a lot of three safety looks to go along with their traditional 4-3 scheme. It seems to be paying off – the Jackets rank 5th in the nation allowing just 124 passing yards per game. The secondary is deep and experienced, led by speedy safety Juanyeh Thomas. Fellow safety Tariq Carpenter is a 6’4 hard-hitter who leads the team in tackles, Tobias Oliver and Tre Swilling are veteran cornerbacks.
The run defense isn’t having near as much success. Tech ranks 11th in rush defense allowing 161 yards per game, so look for the Tar Heels to give them a steady dose of Ty Chandler, who leads the team with 322 rushing yards. Keep an eye out for linebacker Charlie Thomas, though, he had 12 tackles against Clemson and has a pair of interceptions on the season.
by Sharon Thorsland
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