After Miami ran away from Georgia Tech in the fourth quarter of its most winnable remaining game, Tech now has to travel to Chapel Hill and Athens to close the 2022 season. GT faces another discouraging end to the season, as Brent Key confirmed that Zach Pyron will miss the rest of the games, and Jeff Sims is away from the team, leaving just Zach Gibson and Taisun Phommachanh as available scholarship quarterbacks. Even against North Carolina’s very limited defense, it’s difficult to see this offense moving the ball in either of the remaining games with the personnel available. The defense has showed vulnerability to efficient offenses, and two of those are on the docket. Let’s see what the numbers say about this Saturday’s match up with the Tar Heels.
When GT Has the Ball
Given the available quarterbacks and the relative strength of the Georgia Tech offense, expect to see a run-heavy game plan that tries to shorten the game and pick up a few first downs per drive. The rash of interceptions against Miami is likely to give the offensive coaching staff pause before choosing to air the ball out very much this week, and North Carolina does not exactly have a suffocating run defense.
The Tar Heels defense is certain to stack the box and dare GT to throw; can Gibson find a way to navigate the pocket and perhaps take advantage of a few play-action situations? There’s not been much evidence of that so far, but this will be the worst defense he has faced in his game action for GT. Given what I’ve seen, I would expect the sacks and turnovers to continue, but there could be ways to take advantage of a potentially over-aggressive North Carolina defense if the offensive line can provide any time at all and Gibson can find some pocket composure. It just won’t be consistent enough to keep up with what UNC can do with the ball.
When North Carolina Has the Ball
This is by far the best offense Georgia Tech will have faced this season (2nd in Offensive SP+; Ole Miss is 15th and Florida State 38th for reference). Against high caliber quarterbacks and skill groups, this defense has been extremely vulnerable to explosive passing and efficient running over the past few years. This is a perfect storm of having no reliable quarterback options available and an opposing offense that is very, very capable of taking advantage of Georgia Tech’s relative defensive weakness.
Georgia Tech allows efficient offense, while North Carolina achieves efficient and explosive offense. Georgia Tech makes relatively few havoc plays, and North Carolina doesn’t allow them. Drake Maye and Josh Downs have become a top three QB-WR tandem nationally, and this North Carolina offensive line is far and away different than the one that allowed a barrage of TFLs in Mercedes-Benz Stadium last September. Limiting the explosives and forcing UNC to put together extended drives is probably the best the defense can hope to do.
The Vegas line for this game opened with North Carolina favored by 21 and has crept up to 21.5. I would expect that to rise a bit more as game time approaches. The Binion Index only had the line at 16.9, but the quarterback situation forces a manual adjustment down for GT’s rating, which would put the number at 21.9, and that may not be enough. Currently, TBI would give GT a 7% win probability at UNC.
At the category level, GT has a slight edge in three spots against UNC’s struggling defense, but those advantages are likely negated with the quarterback injuries for GT. UNC has the edge in the other 19 categories. Strength of schedule again favors GT, as the Jackets have faced FPI’s 34th rated schedule versus only the 75th rated schedule for UNC. It’s hard to see that mattering, though, with who Tech has available. We’re now looking at the fourth straight year of a very disheartening end to the season for Georgia Tech. It’s time for some fresh faces to lead things and bring some new life into the program.
Vegas: UNC by 21.5
My Pick: North Carolina 42, Georgia Tech 10
The Binion Index: UNC by 21.9 (UNC to cover)
Year to Date Against the Spread: 51.6%, Goal: >=52.3%
Year to Date in GT Games: 6-3
Average Absolute Error: 13.0 points per game (Goal <= 12.5 points per game)