No. 22 North Carolina Tarheels (3-0, 1-1 ATS) at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (2-1, 0-2 ATS) Bobby Dodd Stadium Saturday, September 26th 12:00PM Eastern
By Jay Horne of Predictem.com
Point Spread: UNC +2.5/GT -2.5
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets were ranked as high as number 13 in the country just one week ago coming off a big win over the Clemson Tigers, but what a difference a week makes. The Yellow Jackets took the big stage last Thursday night against the Miami Hurricanes that are unanimously the surprises in the ACC after blowing out the Yellow Jackets 33-17. Georgia Tech simply could not stop the Hurricanes passing attack in the performance and were embarrassed on the national stage. The loss plummeted Georgia Tech all the way down and out of the top 25 in the rankings. However, the Yellow Jackets will try to right the ship this Saturday when they get the chance to return the favor to the no. 22 North Carolina Tar Heels.
North Carolina has gotten off to a solid 3-0 start this season. The Tarheels have some fairly nice wins to their resume with a close 12-10 victory over Connecticut and another solid win over East Carolina last week 31-17. The Tarheels are getting the job done behind coach Butch Davis in his 3rd year with the team. North Carolina has displayed some talent on the defensive side of the ball early this season. The Tarheels have yet to allow a team to score 20 points and are currently ranked 6th in the nation holding opponents to 198 yards of total offense per game. The Tarheels have been superb up front against some solid rushing teams allowing just 52 yards per game and their rush defense will be the key focus heading into this week’s meeting with Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets have held the title of the best rushing team in the ACC for nearly two years. However, they were completely shut down last week against the Hurricanes as they just managed 95 yards as a team on the ground. It was just the 2nd time in 23 games that Georgia Tech had not reached the century mark on the ground as a team. The running game is the most critical aspect to the Yellow Jackets success. They have players to make a lethal arsenal on the ground with tailback Jonathan Dwyer and QB Josh Nesbitt.
However, Nesbitt is not the best of quarterbacks with his arm and struggles with accuracy. If defenses can shut down the running game like the Hurricanes accomplished, Nesbitt is likely not the guy to beat you with his arm. Of course many teams have tried to focus on shutting down the Yellow Jackets running game over the last two years, but have failed to do so. However, expect nothing less as the Tarheels defense loads up the box and dares the Yellow Jackets to beat them through the air.
North Carolina is led by junior quarterback T.J Yates on the offensive side of the ball. Yates had a big year for the Tarheels early in his career throwing for 2,655 yards as a freshman. Expectations were even higher last season, but unfortunately an ankle injury sidelined the Tarheels quarterback for a good portion of the season. North Carolina never rebounded last season, but with Yates healthy again they have returned to the spotlight in the ACC. Yates does not put up huge numbers, but has been effective when called on throwing 5 touchdowns and completing just less than 70% of his passes.
However, the Tarheels tend to keep the ball on the ground a good bit. Tailbacks Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston give a solid 1-2 punch. Draughn is the every down back who receives the most carries and has 223 yards on 53 carries. However, Houston is the real scoring force. Houston who is a 245 pound bully is tough to bring down and responsible for 4 touchdowns already this season. Even though North Carolina likes to run the ball, most would have to expect them to come out throwing. The Yellow Jackets defense looked fairly bad against Clemson freshman quarterback Kyle Parker and then absolutely pathetic against Miami quarterback Jacory Harris. In those two games, the Yellow Jackets gave up 265 yards per game as victim to the pass. It has been quite apparent Georgia Tech is struggling in the secondary, and surely the Yates will test them quite early this weekend.
Jay’s Pick – GT is still one dimensional and until they prove otherwise they will continue to struggle. Take North Carolina +2.5