Georgia Tech (4-5 3-3 ACC) travels to Chapel Hill to take on the home-favorite North Carolina Tar Heels (6-3, 3-2 ACC) Saturday afternoon in ACC-conference action. The Yellow Jackets are having an uncharacteristically subpar season and are fighting for bowl eligibility; needing at least two wins in their final three games to reach the 6-win minimum for bowl consideration.
Paul Johnson has seen his Yellow Jackets struggle with consistency and there is even talk that his seat is getting warmer by the week. Johnson has a different personality that tends to rub some people the wrong way. That’s acceptable – or at the very least ignorable – when you’re winning 8-9 games a season and contending for the ACC Coastal. But when you’re struggling to get 6-wins one year after losing 5 of your final 7 games, the pressure is going to be put squarely on the head coach.
Add in the fact that Johnson’s only ACC Championship (2009) was stripped due to NCAA violations and Georgia Tech will be hiring a new athletic director after Dan Radakovich’s departure to ACC-rival Clemson, and you can certainly understand why this could be Johnson’s last chance with the Yellow Jackets.
Georgia Tech has been inconsistent all season and has struggled to gather up any sort of momentum. They have lost two overtime games (20-17 VT, 42-36 Miami) and have victories over Presbyterian, Virginia, Boston College and Maryland. They have lost to Middle Tennessee, Clemson and BYU by a combined 137-76 with their defense giving up 40+ points in all three games.
In news that should be shocking to no one, Georgia Tech is 4th in the nation in rushing yards with 318.2 yards per game. It also shouldn’t shock you that they’re 119th in the nation in passing yards at 130.9 yards per game. This is to be expected in Johnson’s run-orientated spread-flexbone offense.
The disappointing part is their defense, which has been atrocious all season giving 28.0 points per game. The defensive numbers are aided by their wins over PC (59-3), B.C. (37-17) and last weekend’s 33-13 victory over a Maryland team starting a linebacker at quarterback.
The Georgia Tech offense is led by dual-threat quarterback Tevin Washington, who missed practice on Monday with a minor injury. Washington has combined to score 20 touchdowns this season, including 16 on the ground. If Washington is unable to go, Johnson feels Vad Lee is more than capable of handling the starting QB duties. Last week, the two quarterbacks rotated, each taking two series at a time, and both were able to find success. Washington led the Yellow Jackets to two touchdowns in four possessions, while Lee led them to three touchdowns in five possessions.
Washington and Lee will share the carries with Orwin Smith (54 carries, 523 yards, 4 TD’s), Zach Laskey (83 carries, 448 yards, 1 TD), and David Sims (60 carries, 275 yards, 1 TD) among others. Jeff Greene (13 receptions, 238 yards, 1 TD) and Smith (14 receptions, 202 yards) lead the team in receptions with no other player catching over seven passes.
North Carolina has to avoid the late-season letdown game to the Yellow Jackets and it all starts with the defense. Both North Carolina and Georgia Tech expect to score some points. The winner of the contest will be the team that protects the ball and forces the most punts. Luckily for the Tar Heels, they get the Yellow Jackets in Chapel Hill where North Carolina is 5-0 this season and 11-1 since the start of the 2011 season.