UNC squares off against its second sizeable opponent in three games, Georgia Tech. This game is even more important in that the Yellow Jackets are currently sitting first in the ACC Coastal Division with a 2-0 record—one of which was a 38-14 conference win against dook. Even though it is early in the season, UNC fans need to take Georgia Tech very seriously. They’re currently 1st in the nation in the “Points Against” category at 7.0 per game, 3rd in the nation in the “Points For” category at an average of 54.0 points per game, and 3rd in the nation in “Rushing Yards” at 356 yards per outing. UNC will need to focus on the following five keys to victory to beat a very strong Yellow Jacket squad.
Key #1: Stop The Run
Yes, I am Captain Obvious and yes, I want a cookie. Listen, it’s clear they need to stop the run if there’s any chance at redeeming last year’s loss. It’s the equivalent of saying, “Please stop Peyton Manning from throwing.” Easier said than done, I get that. However, it’s much more important to not let a running team establish dominance on the ground than a passing team to establish dominance through the air. The team that dominates on the ground controls the clock. The team that controls the clock normally wins the game. It tires your defense out and now, your offense is pressured to play one-dimensional through the air to score quickly. Then, interceptions are more likely to occur because their defense is playing pass the rest of the game.
UNC needs to shove eight in the box the entire first half. If GT has success through the air, adjustments can be made at halftime, but you live with that. I mean, Georgia Tech is 107th in the nation in “Passing Yards” (157 yards per game). This is in comparison Georgia Tech’s 3rd in the nation ranking in “Rushing Yards” at 356 per game. I’d take my chances through the air with them.
Key #2: All Defensive Eyes On Vad Lee
The Yellow Jackets have a beast at quarterback. The sophomore Vad Lee has 314 yards, 6 touchdowns, and only a single interception through two games. Even with stacking eight in the box on defense, UNC needs to dedicate one player to QB spy the majority of the game. Tech is not above trick plays. Vad Lee is a 6’1’’, 215 pound athlete through and through. I can see him catching a touchdown on a sweep pass. In a game like this, momentum is a formidable opponent by itself. Let’s just keep an eye on this guy—no matter if he’s got the ball in his hands or not.
Key #3: Where’s Our Running?
We lost Giovani Bernard. I understand, but we’re .500 with a tough matchup against a conference and division opponent we lost to last season. This could make or break UNC’s early momentum. We’re currently 99th in rushing yards at a low 116.5 per game with only two touchdowns. It’s not enough. GT is too smart not to game plan for a pass-heavy UNC offense. That could spell trouble. The Tar Heels must have success on the ground to make this a game.
Key #4: Bryn Renner Stays Consistent
The bright star on the offense, Renner has to shake off the USC game and move forward—which I believe he has. He’s 49-of-77 with 533 passing yards through two games. He’s not turning the ball over, which is essential, with only one interception. Bryn has only two touchdowns under his belt this season but those will come with more games. He must manage the game and look for the long ball when he sees an opportunity.
Key #5: We Remind GT Who They’re Playing
Georgia Tech has impressive stats. I’ll admit it. They’re impressive against fairly lousy teams, though. They chose not to test their bite against the sixth-ranked team in the land, who has arguably the nation’s most dominant player, on bright lights of the national stage, like UNC did. The Tar Heels will need to walk out with some serious swagger and smack GT in the mouth immediately. We’re not Elon or Dook. This is Tar Heel country.