There's only one thing you need to know about Chapel Hill. As far as Georgia Tech is concerned, the City is the black hole of touchdowns. In the last three trips to Chapel Hill Tech has only scored three touchdowns or 27 combined points despite averaging 22.4 points per game the past three Chapel Hill road years. This is disconcerting. Tech hasn't really won a decisive game in Chapel Hill since 2000 where Tech dismantled Torbush's Heels 42-28.
Everyone watched the game and saw how LSU stifled the UNC offense. Out of 38 first half offensive plays, UNC only gained yardage on 20 of them averaging 3.97 yards per play. A lot of this is attributed to the atrocious run game. With Shaun Draughn back, UNC will probably run slightly more effectively than they did against LSU. Draughn is no Ryan Houston, however, and he only picked up 26 yards on 7 carries against Tech last year. And like the other UNC running backs, Draughn just doesn't have a nose for the end zone (only 4 rushing TD's in 322 career attempts).
The passing offense was equally inefficient only completing 11 passes in 21 passing plays. The biggest issue, to me, is the distribution amongst play makers. Yates passed to 8 different guys against LSU. Zack Pianalto and Jheranie Boyd appear to be Yates favorite targets. Al Groh's new 3-4 will definitely have its hands full chasing down multiple wide receivers but I don't foresee UNC running nearly as many four receiver sets as Kansas. Covering Pianalto may be an issue for our outside linebackers.
The final X-Factor is that the offensive line is being shuffled around. Center Jonathan Cooper was moved to guard after several errant snaps gave LSU 9 points. This may provide some communication breakdown along the offensive line as Groh dials up the blitzes.
Defensively, the Heels were pretty resilient despite a huge disadvantage in the field position battle. When the Heels actually executed on offense or special teams and gave the Tigers more than 50 yards to cover, the Tigers couldn't score. And I'm not gonna lie and say it wasn't Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant versus 11 because that's what it was. Sturdivant made 5 tackles in the first half while Bruce Carter picked up a key fumble recovery that kept the Heels semi-alive for the second half. If Tech can get to the edge against UNC, I think this is where we'll succeed. The middle of their defense still appears to be fairly formidable while their defensive line is depleted and their secondary will be fairly inexperienced missing both of their star cornerbacks.
UNC is not afraid to totally abandon the run as they did in the second half against LSU. The Heels ran 24 straight pass plays to finish the game. Time was running out obviously but this appeared to be their strongest play of the game - a frantic, air it out passing attack. Les Miles slow reaction time put his defense on its proverbial heels. Rather than continuously applying pressure like he did in the first half, he allowed his guys to sit back and get picked apart. Hopefully, Groh recognizes that T.J. Yates under pressure is easier to deal with than T.J. Yates with time.
UNC appears to have the play makers that we are seeking right now on offense. In the second half, the Heels had 10 plays of 10 or more yards and 4 plays of 20 or more yards as opposed to only 3 plays of 10 or more yards in the first half. Once again, I think this'll fall on Al Groh to consistently apply pressure and prevent Yates' receivers from getting downfield for big plays. Another scary fact is that Yates went from targeting Pianalto 3 times in the first half to throwing 8 balls his way in the second. Pianalto is the equivalent of a Heels running game.
The UNC defense really, really stepped up in the second half. They shut the Tigers down big time. Only 3.4 yards allowed per play is awesome. The LSU lack of creativity (7 runs out of 10 first down play calls, 68% run plays called in the second half) really helped the Tar Heels key in on the LSU running backs in the second half. If Tech takes the lead, we've gotta maintain an aggressive stance against the Heels. They've shown that they can rally with the best of 'em and have the game breakers to make big plays in the passing game.
Bird: Tech 17, UNC 10
Winfield: This is tough because I fear us committing penalties and the holes in our lines. However, good teams don't lose two in a row. Tech 23 UNC 20