October 25th, Georgia Tech travels to Chapel Hill, NC to finish up their toughest 4-game stretch of the season. At the end of a five-week stretch that includes Virginia Tech, Miami, and Duke, the Jackets will take on North Carolina in what will be their fourth straight major divisional game. This is not only their toughest stretch of the year, but this is also the stretch that will have a lot to do with determining how the season ends up. These are likely their four toughest divisional games (Pittsburgh could also make a case), and a strong showing in them would put the Yellow Jackets in the driver's seat to head to Charlotte as the Coastal Division champion.
As for North Carolina, history is on Georgia Tech's side similar to how it is in the Duke series. After falling to the Tar Heels his first try in 2008, Paul Johnson has coached his teams to five straight wins in the series, although three of the five wins were by one possession (including last year's 28-20 affair). In the five game winning streak, the Jackets have never scored less than 24 (2009) and have scored as many as 68 (2012). All that said, as much as North Carolina is at the end of Georgia Tech's brutal stretch, Georgia Tech is on the end of a brutal stretch for North Carolina too -- the matchup happens after games at Clemson, versus Virginia Poly, and at Notre Dame. (This is also one of the rare occasions recently where UNC will not have a bye week prior to the Georgia Tech game.)
However, while all of this bodes well for Tech, UNC is (as always) a very talented and dangerous team that's capable of winning against just about anyone. You know from the opponent preview article that they bring a ton of athleticism on offense (including true freshman 5-star RB Elijah Hood) and are more than capable of putting up very large numbers on the scoreboard. Their biggest problems will lie on defense, where the Tar Heels had three players drafted and another starter graduate -- and that's a defense that was in the middle of the pack nationally (#43) in scoring defense at 24.5 points per game.
For a team that has traditionally struggled to stop Georgia Tech from scoring, it's a tough situation to play this game on the tail end of such a brutal stretch in the middle of their season. Both offenses will be in full swing at this point, and the game could turn into a shootout given the limited experience on the Yellow Jackets' defense. (Re-do of the 68-50 game of 2012, anyone?) Now, even with limited experience, I do think that the Tech defense is set up well to defend the Tar Heel offense, particularly with the emphasis being placed on the nickel set this season and how much UNC likes to spread the field with receivers and skill position players. In fact, this is one of the matchups where I see that adjustment being most important.
As much as I know the bubble will burst one day and UNC will win in this series, it's awfully hard to pick them to do so until a) we're just too bad to pick, b) they're too good to pick against, or c) they actually do it. Since none of those are actually the case this year (as far as we know at this point), I think that Georgia Tech wins this game and finishes the worst stretch of its season 4-3 at worst. (I'd also argue that 6-1 is very possible, and 7-0 at least somewhat possible.)
How does Georgia Tech fare in this game? Is North Carolina's potent offense going to get them over the hump, or will Paul Johnson continue to have the Tar Heels' number?