Georgia Tech made us look silly last year. Sure, we put up a lot of points in retaliation. Last time I check though, 68 points is still two touchdowns ahead of 54 points. How does a team score 68 points on somebody? It wasn’t a good look for the Tar Heels. UNC will look to change the tide against the Yellow Jackets in this matchup. The defense is stepping in the right direction under head coach, Larry Fedora, but it is still far, far away from where it needs to be. Chapel Hill will have to make some serious adjustments for the September 21st matchup between the two teams. So far this season though, the signs haven’t been good.
UNC squared off against lackluster Middle Tennessee last week and won handedly, 40-20. It was 23-0 going into halftime with the Tar Heels clearly in control. However, the second half was a bit of another story. The Blue Raiders dropped 20 points against UNC in the last two quarters. Stat-wise, the game wasn’t too lopsided, either. MTU put up 26 first downs to Chapel Hill’s 27. They put up 401 total yards to Chapel Hill’s 511 and actually out-rushed UNC, 158 yards to 134 yards. And the most devastating part? Middle Tennessee’s, sophomore running back, Jordan Parker, averaged 5.0 yards per carry on 22 touches and found end zone pay dirt. That’s not a good look for UNC. Really, the essential storyline is that Middle Tennessee had four turnovers to the Tar Heels’ two. If it had been less turnovers on MTU’s side, the game could have been very, very different. Luck always seems to favor the underdog who keeps it close.
Did anyone really think MTU stood a chance against UNC? Consensus would say, “Probably not”. However, UNC’s run defense was exposed. It wasn’t a good thing.
So, what does all this mean? It means UNC needs to pick it up. It means Middle Tennessee isn’t as good as Georgia Tech, by any stretch of the imagination. Mostly, it means Chapel Hill needs to evaluate its run defense because the Yellow Jackets are a strong triple-option team that beat up the Tar Heels on the ground last year to the tune of 380 yards, 588 yards in total. That’s just bad.
Chapel Hill will have to shove 8 in the box all first half. I don’t care if that’s putting our secondary at risk. I’m sorry, but we all know Bryn Renner will be able to put points on the board. UNC will have to make GT beat them through the air to be in this game. Blitzing, defensive end containment, and switching up defensive looks will be the key to keeping the Yellow Jackets from gaining steam through the first half. If UNC is getting slaughtered through the air by the third quarter, then fine, they drop linebackers into coverage as needed.
There’s something psychological about shutting down another team’s strength. The Yellow Jackets’ plan is to run the ball down UNC’s throat. The Tar Heels know that. The ESPN announcers know that. Everyone knows that. If you don’t, well, I hope you’re enjoying life on the planet Mars and catching free taxi rides on the rover. By setting eight in the box against GT, UNC will be setting a tone for the game that they won’t be beaten the way Tech wants to beat them. Larry Fedora will be setting up a true smash-mouth football game where the stronger team will win out. It should be a great shot at redemption.