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Georgia Tech Football: What Should We Learn This Week - North Carolina

Last week was informative, but this week should be even more informative!

NCAA Football: Georgia St. at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

While it wasn’t a win on the scoreboard, there’s no denying how big of a moral victory Tech’s loss to Clemson was last week. In a game that many (myself included) expected to be a blowout in Clemson’s favor, the Yellow Jackets never lost hope and very nearly pulled off an upset. This weekend’s game against North Carolina should provide a little more context to just how much stock we can put in that game.

But before we get that far, let’s see what we learned last week!

Can Georgia Tech keep it all?

Why yes, past me, Georgia Tech can and did keep it close! By losing by just six points, this was the closest game in the series since 2005’s match-up saw Tech win 10-9. The trick now is building on that.

Can Georgia Tech take advantage of an underperforming DJ Uiagalelei?

Tech took advantage of an underperforming DJ Uiagalelei surprisingly well! He completed 18 of his 25 passes, but was held to a season-low 126 yards, with no pass going for more than 17 yards. Tech’s defense wasn’t able to intercept Uiagalelei, but they did keep him from throwing a touchdown.

Who’s starting at quarterback this week?

Jordan Yates started, and as far as I’m concerned, the starting job is his, no matter how serious Sims’ injury was. I put out the thought last week that Sims didn’t appear against Kennesaw State as he wasn’t fully healthy. While that may or may not have been true (we will likely never know), Yates more than earned the starting job with his performance against Clemson.

I mentioned this earlier, but Tech has an opportunity to build on the last week’s moral victory. While that may come in the way of another moral victory this week, I think Tech has a chance to make a statement this week. Let’s see what we can learn!

Just how good is Georgia Tech?

I think this is the question that is on everyone’s mind right now. Is this team the same one who lost to a bad Northern Illinois team in Week 1? Or is this the team that matched Clemson step for step in Death Valley this last weekend?

I’m reminded of a quote that Paul Johnson used to say: “It’s never as good or as bad as it seems.”

With that being said, it’s tough to gauge just where Georgia Tech is at this point in the season. This week’s game against North Carolina should do a lot to help us gauge just how good this team is.

Coming into this game, North Carolina (like a lot of teams this season) has had a bit of a weird season. They blew the doors off of Virginia last week, despite Brennan Armstrong throwing for more than 550 yards. But in Week 1, Virginia Tech severely limited the Tar Heel’s offensive output, holding them to just 10 points and Sam Howell to just 200 yards.

This week should hopefully help answer this question for both teams.

Can Georgia Tech survive a shootout with one of the nation’s top offenses?

Remember when I said that UNC blew the doors off of Virginia last week? Yeah, they are currently rated as the fifth-best offense in the country by Football Outsiders. I’d quote their SP+ ranking here too, but TIL that Bill C keeps that stuff behind a paywall, so if you’re an ESPN insider, that link will show you, but spoilers, Bill C has their offense highly ranked too.

Looking at EPA, North Carolina is running at 0.19 EPA/Play, 0.11 EPA/Pass, and 0.25 EPA/Run, all of which are well above the national average.

In short, North Carolina’s offense is DANG good.

The question, then, is can Georgia Tech hope to keep up? They did an impeccable job of limiting explosive plays against Clemson, but North Carolina’s offense brings a whole different beast: the tandem of Sam Howell and Josh Downs.

Downs, who was recruited by Georgia Tech before enrolling at UNC, has been on another level this year. He’s scored at least one touchdown in every game, and his lowest yards output was 73 yards against Georgia State, a game UNC won 59-17. If you take out his 59-yard reception last week that put him over 200 yards, Downs still averaged more than 20 yards a catch against Virginia. This will certainly be the biggest test for Georgia Tech’s defense so far this season.

Georgia Tech’s offense, meanwhile, has yet to score more than 21 points against an FBS opponent.

I think the best thing Tech can do to keep North Carolina from running up the score is the same thing they did against Clemson. Extend drives. Eat up the clock. Don’t give UNC the time to hang 60, because they just might.

Will we ever see a shake-up on the offensive line?

Now, to control the clock successfully, that means Tech needs to be able to run the ball more efficiently than the team did a week ago. And I think that should be pretty doable. UNC’s rush defense is not at the same level Clemson’s was.

We’ve talked about it a few times this week in different posts, but the guards have really struggled, specifically Ryan Johnson. In spite of that, nobody else has been given a shot at right guard. Virtually every other OL position has been shuffled somewhat. I don’t mind if it’s William Lay III or Kenneth Kirby or Nick Pendley, but I really do hope that this is the week we see some kind of shake-up on the offensive line.

What are you hoping to learn this weekend?