As we finish recapping Georgia Tech’s performance against Temple this past weekend, it’s time to begin looking forward to the Jackets next opponent, the North Carolina Tar Heels.
Don’t underestimate North Carolina based off their 2-3 record, the Tar Heels in 2019 are a team that can be dangerous and will be a handful for Geoff Collins’ Yellow Jackets.
1) They’re an up-and-down team through five weeks
Through five weeks, the Tar Heels have had their ups-and-downs as a 2-3 record may show. The Tar Heels started off the season incredibly hot with two upset wins of South Carolina and Miami. Since then, they’ve dropped three-straight to Wake Forest, Appalachian State, and Clemson. Each of the three losses have had their own ups-and-downs but the Tar Heels ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard in each instance….. that being said…
2) They could also be 5-0 / 4-1.
Their three losses have come by a combined 10-points including their 21-20 loss to Clemson this past weekend. Now, they didn’t perform well enough to deserve a victory against Wake Forest but there is an argument to be made that they could’ve won that game had they woken up offensively a little earlier. Now, there’s no excuses so let’s say they could be 4-1. Their losses to Appalachian State and Clemson could’ve very well both been wins for the program and were one-play away in both games.
The loss to App State shouldn’t be a shocker and it’s not that bad of a loss as many would think. App State is one of the best group of five programs in the country and has been since they entered the FBS a few years ago. They have one of the nation’s longest winning streaks and have an amazing culture that allows them to believe they can beat anybody and everybody they face. North Carolina was only a 2-point favorite in that App State game and when you consider, home field advantage is usually worth about three-points, it means App State was actually the favorite. Now, that being said, the Tar Heels could’ve came away with a victory in that 37-34 loss with a few plays here or there.
Now, upsetting Clemson would be almost hard to believe but the Tar Heels were one two-point conversion away from doing just that. The Tar Heels defense balled out against the Tigers and the offense just came up short despite a tremendous scoring drive at the end of the game. If they capitalize on their two-point conversion, they still would have had to stop Clemson but could’ve came away with an incredible shocker. That being said, the argument could be made that the Tar Heels are only three or four plays away this year from being 4-1.
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3) Sam Howell is a baller and a future top quarterback prospect
A top-100 prospect in the 2019 recruiting class and a the third-ranked dual threat quarterback, it’s no surprise that Sam Howell is off to a good start in his collegiate career. That being said, nobody would’ve expected the true freshman to light up opposing defenses like he has so far this season.
Through his first five games, Howell has had his ups-and-downs for the Tar Heels but most of the time, he’s been money. He has a 62.5% completion percentage (90-of-144) for 1,168-yards, and 11 touchdowns through five games. He’s only thrown two interceptions as well while posting a quarterback rating of 153.1.
If that’s enough to raise your eyebrows, against the defending national champions this past weekend, Howell was able to almost lead the Tar Heels to an upset win despite not having his best performance. He still was able to throw for two touchdowns and engineered a late scoring drive that resulted in a touchdown but a failed two-point conversion would give the Tar Heels a heart breaking one-point loss. He’s going to be a special, special quarterback in the not so distant future.
4) This isn’t the same Tar Heels team from a season ago
If you couldn’t tell, this isn’t the same Tar Heels team that from a year ago got pushed around by almost everyone they faced. The Tar Heels under Mac Brown have shown up with a fire lit underneath them each and every week and have played hard nosed football. Their offense still has kinks to work out but has played mostly well through five weeks while the defense is still improving. Their performance against Clemson this past weekend should serve as a confidence boost for the defense as it was a tremendous performance. They’re not a team that’s going to compete in the ACC this season or finish with a winning conference record but going from 2-9 to a potential 6-6 record is a good start for the Mac Brown era in Chapel Hill. We see three games the rest of the season the Tar Heels should win with Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Mercer left on their schedule. They then could pull out a win against Duke, Pitt, or NC State. They probably won’t win all six of these games but winning four of six is surely a capable task for Mac Brown’s team.
5) Their defense is sneaky good
Outside the outlier of 37-points to Appalachian State, the North Carolina defense this year has been sneaky good. The Tar Heels have allowed 25-points or less in their four other games this season which has given their offense the chance to win in each of those games. They’re of course 2-2 in those games with wins over South Carolina and Miami as mentioned above. The two losses both in conference play have come against two of the conferences best programs right now in Wake Forest (5-0) and Clemson (5-0). Both programs have two of the nation’s longest winning streaks of 20 and 7 games straight respectively and the Tar Heels have almost been the end for both thanks to their defense.
Against Wake Forest ,an offense averaging over 35-points per game this season, the Tar Heels allowed just 24 points while keeping quarterback Jamie Newman in check with a 53% completion percentage and just 214-yards. Against Clemson, they kept Trevor Lawrence to a 60% completion percentage for just 206-yards. Both Newman and Lawrence are two of the better quarterbacks in the ACC and the Tar Heels have been able to force both quaterbacks to have tough days against their defense.
Now, the Tar Heels defense by no means is a tremendous defense but they’re a defense that has been sneaky good. They’ve allowed a lot of yards but by allowing 25 or fewer points in four of their five games, they’ve given their team the chance to win games which is the ultimately the most important factor. We’ll see if they can keep it going forward but on paper they have an easy matchup against the Jackets offense this upcoming weekend.