Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets try to bounce back against UNC after being embarrassed by Miami last Thursday. The Tar Heels are off to a 3-0 start for first the time in 12 years, led by a smothering defense. Vegas has installed GT as a 2.5-point favorite.
Last Meeting—North Carolina 28, Ga Tech 7
UNC used 21 fourth-quarter points to pull away from Ga. Tech in a 28-7 win, despite being out-gained 423 yards to 314. The Yellow Jackets had 326 yards rushing, but turnovers did them in on numerous drives.
Keys to the Game
1. Line of Scrimmage
If Tech thought Miami's and Clemson's defensive lines were impressive, they may not have even seen the ACC's best—which may reside in Chapel Hill. In three games, the Heels are giving up just 52 yards per game on the ground. A big key to slowing down the spread option offense is pressure up front, and not allowing the backs or QB to get to the edge.
In the loss to Miami, GT was manhandled up front by the Canes. To win this game, they have to play better than they have in their last six quarters. Also, their defensive line was not able to get any pressure on Miami last week.
As I mentioned previously, GT out-gained and got more first downs than UNC last year, but they lost the game when they lost the ball. North Carolina also has to take better care of the ball than they have thus far, with seven turnovers in three games.
When you have two evenly matched teams in talent and coaching, turnovers could be the deciding factor.
3. Red-Zone Scoring
North Carolina is a blistering 10 for 10 in red-zone scores this season, with touchdowns on seven of those 10 tries. Their vaunted defense has allowed the opposition inside the 20 just six times, and only three of those went for TDs.
Georgia Tech has had 11 chances in the red zone, but has punched it in the end zone just three times. Their opponents are scoring TDs 50 percent of the time. The Yellow Jackets cannot settle for FGs against a defense like Butch Davis'.
The score last year was not indicative of how close the game was. GT had played three games in 13 days, and was simply out of gas. Coming off an SU loss, Paul Johnson was 3-0 last year and 18-10-1 ATS in FCS.
For Ga. Tech to win this game, they have to block much better than they have been—which will be a tall task against UNC's defense.
I think Georgia Tech bounces back this week after getting some rest and a renewed focus, but North Carolina makes it close enough to cover.
Georgia Tech 23, North Carolina 21
(North Carolina Covers -2.5)