The North Carolina Tar Heels come into this game undefeated after defeating James Madison 42 to 10 to open the season; Rutgers 24 to 22; and this past weekend beat Virginia 28 to 17 to take a one game lead over Georgia Tech in the Coastal Division of the ACC. This will also be the Tar Heels first road game of the season when they play the Yellow Jackets this Saturday at BDS. So after three games this is a must win for Georgia Tech as the games against Coastal Division opponents result in a huge advantage for the victor and create an instant two game lead for all practical purposes.
North Carolina went into this season without their Head Football Coach Butch Davis who was terminated by the school’s president shortly after the ACC media days. They have played quite well under their current interim head coach, Everett Withers, as they have gone undefeated to this point in their schedule. On defense the Tar Heels went into last Saturdays game with Virginia as the third best rushing defense in the nation only allowing 30 yards per game. They held Rutgers to a single yard rushing the week before in their 24 to 22 victory. However, UVA went for 163 yards on the ground and averaged 5.6 yards a carry in their loss at Chapel Hill, bumping up that number to a still very impressive 76 yards per game on the ground.
This week the Tar Heels defense will face quite a challenge as the Yellow Jackets are leading the country in rushing at nearly 428 yards per game. In addition, they are also the # 1 scoring offense averaging over 59 points per game so far this season. This will be North Carolina’s fourth time playing against the Paul Johnson triple option which last season went for 372 yards and nearly 6 yards per carry in Georgia Tech’s victory on the road. If memory serves me well, I recall last year Orwin Smith going 80 yards around the right side for a touchdown on an option play against the Tar Heels for their first touchdown of the game.
So for the rest of the week we will be hearing how the way to be successful against this triple option offense is to play discipline assignment football and not get away from your primary responsibility; Easier said than done. The other factor that is always present in the Georgia Tech version of this offense is that we have the guru calling the shots and planning the next several plays as he is constantly probing the defense and able to adjust throughout the game by changing blocking schemes and running angles during the course of the contest. That factor alone is not only a huge tactical advantage going into each and every game, but the intangible psychological advantage that is created in the mind of your opponent is incalculable.
An example of this phenomenon goes all the way back to a championship season when CPJ was coaching Georgia Southern and playing against Youngstown State coached by Jim Tressel in the championship game in Division II, now known as the FCS. Youngstown State led the country in rushing defense giving up about 166 yards per game after already playing 14 contests, and of course GSU led the nation in rushing. Something had to give in that playoff event. GSU went for 638 yards on the ground in that game and obliterated Youngstown State with CPJ at the controls 59 to 24. The prior season GSU lost in the finals to Massachusetts after turning the ball over 7 times in a close loss.
So now for the first time in the CPJ era at Georgia Tech he has been able to install larger, yet still very athletic offensive linemen to fill into the trenches as the cornerstone necessary to give the triple option offense a solid starting point up front and allow the quarterback an opportunity to make the proper reads without constantly having defensive linemen in the backfield preventing a play from being properly executed. The challenge this week will really be on the shoulders of the big guys up front who have coined themselves the; Goon squad.
They must perform especially well in order to give the Yellow Jackets an opportunity to move the football. Reason being is that North Carolina has some excellent defensive talent especially on their defensive line with pre-season All American DE Quinton Coples who goes 6′ 7″ 290 Lbs. and reminds many of Julius Peppers who played the same position for the Tar Heels a while back and is still wreaking havoc in the NFL. At DT the Tar Heels have another stud in Tydreke Powell 6′ 3″ 310 Lbs. who was one of the top DT’s in the entire country coming out of high school several years ago and is a force to be reckoned with in the middle this game.
The Tar Heels have been recruiting a bunch of those multiple stars players every season since Butch Davis became their head coach so they have quite a few talented folks on their roster. They have 300+ Lbs. offensive linemen across the front wall to go along with a huge WR Dwight Jones who is listed at 6′ 4″ 225 Lbs. and is reminiscent of our Calvin Johnson and Demarius Thomas. They also deploy two different types of running backs with a scat back named Giovanni Bernard at 5′ 9″ 205 Lbs., and a bigger back who played extensively last season against us; Ryan Houston 6′ 2″ 245 Lbs. who also has good speed to go along with his power. So the defense will have their hands full in this game getting some stops and forcing the Tar Heels to punt.
This game will boil down to a team of stars playing against a team of solid role players that is performing very well with everyone contributing and playing selfless football in their designated assignments. It will be interesting to see how the game progresses should the Yellow Jackets be able to keep up their high standards on offense by moving the football and scoring points. What that can usually cause in a team with highly recruited players is quick dissension and an immediate departure from the game plan discipline necessary to defend against this scheme, into a freelance approach at the snap of the ball which can make this triple option offense that much more effective.
This will also be the first road trip of the year for the Tar Heels as they have had the benefit, or perhaps misfortune of becoming quite comfortable while playing their first three games at home. I would imagine that the novelty of not only having to prepare for the triple option offense and 3/4 defense the same week you are getting used to packing for the first road game of the season will present a very unique set of challenges for North Carolina. That is why it is so important to be extremely loud this week and cheer on the Yellow Jackets in their first ACC game of the year at BDS.
The Tar Heels have become quite accustomed to the warmth and comforts of their home trappings so the GT fans need to step up and create the type of home environment that will add to the Tar Heels already burdensome preparation tasks as they travel on the road for the first time this season to face ACC Coastal Division rival Georgia Tech. Go Jackets!