CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina travels to Atlanta this weekend for a game on Saturday at Georgia Tech, which has, in my opinion, the best fight song in the ACC. We’ll be hearing a lot of that at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, but how much of it we hear depends on how well the Tar Heels do against the Yellow Jackets and their option offense.
Indeed, this is a big game. With a victory, UNC would cement itself as a legitimate contender in the Coastal Division. With a loss, all of a sudden the Tar Heels’ backs would be against the wall. Their next conference game isn’t easy, either – at Virginia Tech on Oct. 5.
For now, though, some things to know about the Yellow Jackets:
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Where’s that: Home of chick-fil-A, a few good BBQ restaurants, Sweetwater Brewing and other not-bad things.
Mascot: Yellow Jackets
What’s that: A bee
Record last season: 7-7
Yards per play (last season in parenthesis): 7.49 (6.16)
Opponents yards per play (last season in parenthesis): 5.23 (5.69)
Things to know about the offense: Georgia Tech’s offense basically did what it wanted during its first two games – a pair of dominant victories against Elon and Duke. The Yellow Jackets mixed things up a bit against the Blue Devils last weekend, and used a diamond formation with quarterback Vad Lee in the shotgun, flanked by the two slotbacks with the fullback behind. That was a wrinkle that UNC coach Larry Fedora said he hadn’t seen studying Georgia Tech on film. Of course, under coach Paul Johnson Georgia Tech has been known as a triple-option team – a description Johnson rejects. According to him, the Yellow Jackets use a “spread option” offense. Nonetheless, Georgia Tech’s option has proven nearly impossible to slow down during Johnson’s tenure, and with the multi-faceted Lee at quarterback, the offense is probably even more dangerous. Lee has averaged 62.5 yards rushing and 157 yards passing in Georgia Tech’s first two games. He threw four touchdown passes against Duke. Already, just two games into the season, nine Georgia Tech players have at least five carries – and four of them are averaging at least 9.4 yards per carry. Lee and David Sims, a fifth-year senior, have been the Yellow Jackets’ most prolific runners. Combined, they average nearly 110 rushing yards per game.
Things to know about the defense: Johnson fired Al Groh, the team’s former defensive coordinator, six games into last season. The Yellow Jackets allowed 600 yards in two of the previous three games before Groh lost his job. The defense improved the rest of the season – despite giving up 497 yards in that wild 68-50 victory against UNC – and then Johnson hired Ted Roof, the former Duke head coach, to lead the Yellow Jackets’ defense. Georgia Tech uses a basic 4-3 scheme that has been highly effective (though against limited competition – Elon and Duke without its starting quarterback) early in the season. The Yellow Jackets allowed Duke just 254 yards of offense, and they forced Duke to punt nine times. UNC offensive coordinator Blake Anderson said earlier in the week that what stands out the most about Roof’s defense is how technically strong it is. It’s not an overly complicated defense, nor is it flashy, but both Anderson and UNC Fedora have been impressed by its soundess.
Random things to know: UNC hasn’t won at Georgia Tech since Oct. 30, 1997. Since then, the Tar Heels have lost seven consecutive games at Bobby Dodd Stadium. … It’s way early yet, but the Yellow Jackets entered the week as the only team in the nation ranked among the top five nationally in scoring offense, scoring defense, pass efficiency and pass efficiency defense. … Georgia Tech has yet to allow a sack this season. … Defensively, the Yellow Jackets have forced 10 three-and-outs.