Geoff Collins’ Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets will look to get back into the win column on Saturday when they taking on the North Carolina Tar Heels.
North Carolina and Georgia Tech have put together some great games over the years and on Saturday, the two will look to put together another quality tilt. The two programs have met eachother on the gridiron 53 times with Georgia Tech holding the all-time series lead with a 30-23-3 record.
The Jackets have dominated the series this decade, winning six of nine games including each of the last two. In order to get to know the Tar Heels a little bit more, we were able to catch up with our friends at Old North Banter regarding the Tar Heels and what to expect out of North Carolina on Saturday.
Answering our questions today for Old North Banter, is expert Luke Tucker!
Yellow Jacked Up: Sam Howell seems to be a stud prospect and a potential future first-round pick through his first five games. How’s the true freshman performed so far this year in UNC’s eyes and what should Tech fans expect from him on Saturday? What should Tech fans expect out of the offense in general?
"Old North Banter: Howell has been outstanding no doubt, however, it’s still too soon to label him an NFL first-rounder. That being said, he has the talent to be a player of that caliber and has at least two more collegiate seasons to get even better. On the field, Howell has been a revelation at a position where the Tar Heels had no real answer for the past two seasons. He’s shown the ability to make any throw on the field, and he’s smart and full of poise. As a result, the “chains” have slowly been removed, and with mostly positive results.Perhaps more than anything, Georgia Tech fans need to be wary of the deep ball. All 11 of Howell’s touchdown passes have been from 10+ yards, including 4 that were over 20 yards. Despite Georgia Tech ranking fifth in the country in passing yards allowed per game, don’t be surprised to see UNC try to establish the passing game early. Howell is confident, and the coaching staff is confident in him. As far as the running game goes, the Heels have two backs with each over 300 yards on the season, so they could also look to exploit the Yellow Jackets’ poor run defense."
Yellow Jacked Up: Despite just being a year removed, this UNC team looks a ton better than they did last year, what’s the reason behind such a rebound?
"Old North Banter: This may sound a bit cliche, but it can be summed up in two words: culture change. Ever since returning to UNC last November, Mack Brown has completely changed the culture at Carolina in a good way. Under Larry Fedora, losing almost felt expected and acceptable. Brown has breathed new life into what was a floundering program for the past two seasons, and although some of the initial enthusiasm has worn off, Brown’s return still carries lots of excitement surrounding the program. Not to mention that Brown is currently on pace to bring in the Tar Heels’ best recruiting class in nearly a decade."
Yellow Jacked Up: What are some of the major changes Mack Brown has brought to the program in his tenure so far?
"Old North Banter: As mentioned earlier, Mack Brown has already started to change the culture at UNC. For the first time since Mitch Trubisky was the quarterback, fans are excited to watch the Tar Heels play football. In other words, Carolina fans aren’t just “surviving” until basketball season anymore. The culture change reaches into the locker room as well. Guys such as senior safety Myles Dorn have really stepped up as leaders this season, and it’s gone a long way both on and off the field.When football fans, especially fans of the ACC, think of the phrase “culture change,” they often think of Dabo Swinney at Clemson. Brown’s culture isn’t Swinney’s and that’s okay (although Brown has busted out some of his own dance in the locker room). More than anything though, Brown has simply gotten everyone involved in the program to buy in to what he wants to do. Carolina is a long way from being any type of serious contender, but Mack no doubt has this team headed in the right direction."
Yellow Jacked Up: How would you grade North Carolina’s defense this season? What are their biggest strengths?
"Old North Banter: After finishing outside the top-hundred in points allowed last season, UNC ranks in the upper-half of the nation this year. In fact, the defensive turnaround has been so dramatic that the Tar Heels are currently giving up 10 points less per game this season than they did in 2018. Just this past weekend, Carolina held high-powered Clemson to its lowest regular-season point total since September of 2017.The reason for the turnaround has been the defense’s steadiness. With that being said, the UNC defense doesn’t have a true “strength.” Rather, the Tar Heels are solid at defending the run and solid at defending the pass and getting to the quarterback–they aren’t really spectacular at anything. Over the first few weeks of the season, the strength of the UNC defense was its “bend, don’t break mentality,” meaning that it would give up its share of yards, but found a way to get off the field on third downs."
Yellow Jacked Up: What would need to go wrong for North Carolina to lose this game on Saturday?
"Old North Banter: To make a long answer short, a lot. Injuries can always happen, and UNC is already thin at quarterback behind Howell. Backup Jace Ruder is expected to miss an extended amount of time due to injury, meaning that another true freshman in Vincent Amendola is Howell’s current backup, who was actually a walk on. Amendola has yet to see any playing time in his career, and throwing him into the fire on the road wouldn’t be desirable by any means. The Tar Heels also hope Howell improves upon his first road start at Wake Forest.Defensively, the Tar Heels need to stop the run. Nearly two-thirds of Georgia Tech’s offensive plays are running plays, and as mentioned earlier, the UNC defense is solid at everything–which means not great at stopping the run. If the Yellow Jackets begin to find success on the ground, and especially if that opens up some things through the air, Carolina’s defense could be in for a long afternoon."
Yellow Jacked Up: Who’s one underrated player that Tech fans should know for Saturday’s game?
"Old North Banter: Chazz Surratt. After playing quarterback for the Tar Heels the past two seasons, Surratt made the move to inside linebacker this offseason, where he has played well for the most part. The junior ranks third on the team in tackles and is tied for the team lead in tackles for loss. He also has 3.0 sacks on the year, including one in each of the last two contests. Surratt will be a key cog in Carolina’s hopes of stopping the Georgia Tech run game on Saturday."
Yellow Jacked Up: What’s your final score prediction for the game?
"Old North Banter: I think that even though Georgia Tech ranks last in the country in scoring offense, this game will be closer than most people think. With Tech having one of the best pass defenses in the nation, as well as being at home, this one could very well turn into a battle of the trenches–a scenario that would benefit the Yellow Jackets. However, the Georgia Tech offense has undergone a major dropoff in scoring since the move away from the triple option. That being said, Carolina should sneak out of Atlanta with a win. UNC wins, 24-21."