The North Carolina football team travels to Georgia Tech this weekend with a chance to win its first ACC game.
The 1-3 Tar Heels have been plagued by injuries and outscored 54-20 in the fourth quarter this season. It will only get tougher on Saturday against a strong Yellow Jackets team. Here are three things to keep an eye on heading into the matchup in Atlanta.
Head coach Larry Fedora hasn't been in a tougher position at UNC than he is now.
UNC currently sits at 0-2 in the ACC and has to go on the road to face a team it's beaten just five times over the last 19 seasons, per Winsipedia. One of those wins, in 2008, has since been vacated.
In his North Carolina career, Fedora has never finished a season with a losing record in the ACC. But he faces a real possibility of being 0-3 after this week. Georgia Tech is a resounding 9.5 point favorite and has a 66.2 percent chance of winning according to ESPN's Football Power Index.
Fedora seems to have overwritten that trend. UNC has pulled out three straight victories over its Atlanta rival. If the Tar Heels can’t make it four wins in a row, they'll match their worst start in ACC play since 2013.
The Yellow Jackets possess one of the most difficult offenses in all of college football to gameplan for.
Instead of a normal offense that tries to stay balanced by throwing and running the football equally, Georgia Tech throws the passing game out the window.
Junior quarterback TaQuon Marshall has thrown the ball just 23 times for 280 yards in the three games they have played. To put it in perspective, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen has thrown the ball 200 times in four games.
One would think that if the Yellow Jackets run the ball on every single play, they should be easy to stop. It's quite the opposite. Their offense is putting up 393.7 yards on the ground and 37.7 points per game.
Georgia Tech loves to run the ball, in which Marshall alternates between running it himself or pitching it to the running back behind him. The Yellow Jackets also added an extra wrinkle into their running game with the triple option. Now, the quarterback can either keep it or pitch it to two different running backs.
With three choices, Marshall can pitch it to wherever the defense isn’t covering. He has 386 rushing yards and eight touchdowns, with running back KirVonte Benson garnering 346 rushing yards and three touchdowns.
As such, UNC must stay in its gaps and avoid overreaching. It'll be a tough test for a defense that gave up 312 rushing yards to Louisville, the last team it played with a true dual-threat quarterback.
The Yellow Jackets push the tempo relentlessly, much like the old days when Chip Kelly led the Oregon Ducks.
UNC’s defense was on the field for 79 plays against Duke. That number will stay high again on Saturday, as Georgia Tech averages 75 plays per game. Considering the Yellow Jackets have run the ball on 89 percent on their plays so far, those 75 defensive snaps for UNC will be even more draining.
With Georgia Tech expected to light up the scoreboard, first-year quarterback Chazz Surratt will have to play like he has nothing to lose if he wants his offense to keep up with the vaunted Georgia Tech ground game.
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