Danny Karnik/Georgia Tech Athletics
FTRS takes a look at what will be the biggest factors in this weekend's game against UNC.
Georgia Tech's Defense
If Georgia Tech is to beat UNC this weekend, they're going to have to do it with defense. The Tar Heels are in the top quarter of the country in passing (31st), rushing (26th), and scoring (16th). Their offense is loaded with talent and will be a chore to stop. Tech's defensive front will need to come through in a big way to attempt to take away the rushing game, as well as applying pressure to help disrupt the passing game. The ultra-balanced nature of their offense is what scares me the most, and particularly that they can run the ball so effectively. I'm not terrified of the passing attack so much as I'm worried that they'll run all over us. This needs to be the game of the year for the Tech defense, ideally assisted by a couple of turnovers.
Georgia Tech's Special Teams
I wouldn't say that they necessarily need to make big plays (it would certainly help), but more that they need to not make any moderate-to-major mistakes. Defeating UNC will be enough of a task without the mental and emotional effect that a big special teams play would give them. No allowing kick returns for touchdowns (or even big games), no penalties against us, and no crappy punts or kicks. A game that's worse than near-perfect could be all the Jackets need to meet their demise in this game.
UNC's Rushing Defense
Ranked 19th nationally at 111 yds/game allowed, they're a defense that, while talented, we've never had issues against under Paul Johnson for whatever reason. If they're on top of their game, it'll be a long afternoon for the good guys. If they struggle to contain Georgia Tech's rushing attack, this game may well turn into a who's-got-the-ball-last-style shootout. I'd rather see the latter than the former, if only because it'd mean that at least one of our units was working well.
For those late to the program, this is our backup quarterback. He wears #2. He's pretty talented. Mayhaps you've seen him during games? In any case, you're going to be seeing a lot more of him. Tevin is the starter still, but that means less and less with each passing week. Vad's sure to get a large amount of playing time, especially if things go south for the Jackets early on. First and foremost, we need Vad to take care of the ball. He had a pitch last week to Orwin Smith that went for a touchdown, yes, but that I would have described as "interesting" at the very least -- it wasn't far from being grabbed by a defender. If Vad can avoid those major mistakes, he can use his athleticism and passing ability to have a huge effect on keeping Georgia Tech in this game.
Sure, most any game involves this as a key element. I mention it here though because Tech will likely need a turnover margin of +2 in my eyes to have a good shot of winning. +1 and it's crucial to capitalize on it, 0 or less and we'll have a hard time hanging around late into the game. Tech could use 2-3 turnovers that lead to points in a big way in this game.
Those are my keys to the game, Tech fans. Now you tell me: what will be the key elements in this game?