Tar Heels welcome struggling Yellow Jackets
Posted November 10, 2012
Chapel Hill, N.C. — The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets attempt to salvage an uncharacteristic sub par season on Saturday afternoon when they travel to Chapel Hill to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in ACC action.
Georgia Tech has had its share of ups and down this season en route to a modest 4-5 record. It won two of its first three games, only to slide into a three-game losing streak. Since then however, the Yellow Jackets have turned things around with wins in two of their last three, including last week's 33-13 road win over Maryland to move to 3-3 in ACC play. They have an incredible streak of being bowl eligible in 15 consecutive seasons, but they will need to win two of their final three games to accomplish that feat this year.
UNC has won five of its last six games, including most recently against NC State on Oct. 27 (43-35) to pull to 6-3 and become bowl eligible. With a 3-2 conference record, the Tar Heels are just a half game behind Miami for the ACC Coastal Division lead. Kenan Memorial Stadium has been a great home field advantage for the Heels, as they have gone 5-0 in Chapel Hill this season and they have won 11 of their last 12 at home since the start of the 2011 season.
Georgia Tech holds a 26-18-3 advantage over UNC in the all-time series, which includes wins in three straight and 12 of the last 14 matchups.
The Georgia Tech offense (34.9 ppg) has found success behind the nation's fourth-ranked rushing attack, amassing 318.2 ypg. It put its philosophy to the test last week with great results, rushing for 370 yards against the Maryland's fourth-ranked rush defense (77.6 ypg heading into last week's game).
Quarterback Tevin Washington needed to attempt just two passes last week and has modest passing totals on the season (55-of-93, 901 yards, four TDs, three INTs), but most of his damage comes on the ground as he is second on the team in rushing with 511 yards and his 16 rushing scores are six more than any other player in the ACC. Vad Lee also sees time under center and is in a similar mold as Washington (277 passing yards, 322 rushing yards, eight total TDs).
With opposing defenses needing to stay honest against the triple option, Orwin Smith is able to take advantage of big plays, as he averages nearly 10 yards per carry this year en route to 523 yards and four scores. Zach Laskey (448 yards, TD) also sees plenty of work in the backfield.
There isn't much passing in the Yellow Jackets' playbook. Smith is the leading receiver with 14 catches, and Jeff Greene (13 receptions, 238 yards, two TDs) is the only other player averaging more than a catch per game. However, when they do pass, it's often for big yardage, as seven different receivers have caught a pass for 39 yards or longer.
Last week's 13-point effort not withstanding, Georgia Tech's defense (28 ppg) has been the main reason for its sub-.500 record. It has allowed 41 points or more in four of its last six games.
Jemea Thomas has been one of the conference's top defensive backs with 52 tackles, three interceptions and six pass breakups. Jeremiah Attaochu is the leading pass rusher with five sacks, three of which came last week, helping him earn ACC Linebacker of the Week honors.
UNC has been one of the few offenses in the ACC better than Georgia Tech as it ranks third in both scoring (39.4 ppg) and yardage (487.8 ypg). It is coming off a 570-yard performance in its last game against rival NC State.
Bryn Renner threw for 358 yards in the Oct. 27 win, falling just five yards short of his career high of 363 set against Louisville earlier in the season. Renner has been one of the best signal-callers in the ACC, completing 62.5 percent of his passes for 2,386 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions.
Renner doesn't play favorites in the receiving game as six different players have recorded at least 200 yards with multiple touchdowns, led by Erik Highsmith (42 receptions, 443 yards, two TDs) and Eric Ebron (35 receptions, 546 yards, three TDs).
Rounding out a well-balanced offense is Giovani Bernard, who has been fantastic in his sophomore season. He leads the ACC in rushing (930 yards), and he's also an excellent receiver out of the backfield with 32 receptions, including eight for 95 yards against NC State. His prowess as a multi- dimensional playmaker has led to 15 total touchdowns (10 rushing, three receiving, two punt return), which is already the fifth-most in program history for a single season.
The defense has played very well for the most part (21 ppg), but the unit has been vulnerable in recent weeks, allowing 33 points or more in three of its last four games.
The Tar Heels' strength on defense is forcing turnovers as they rank tied for 19th in the nation with 21 takeaways, led by three interceptions apiece from Tre Boston and Tim Scott. Kevin Reddick is having an All-ACC type campaign at linebacker with 58 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, and a forced fumble.
While UNC's defense has some weakness, it is very stout against the run in allowing just 111 yards per game, which does not bode well for the Yellow Jackets. The Tar Heels have been rolling at home, and there's no reason to believe that trend will stop.