The ACC schedule kicks off for Georgia Tech this weekend with a monster showdown on the Flats. Two Top 25 teams in Georgia Tech and North Carolina meet to see what happens when two unstoppable forces meet. Both teams are undefeated and in the latest Top 25 Coaches Poll (GT is #24 and UNC is #25, GT is #25 in the AP Poll while UNC is unranked). UNC earned their first ACC win last weekend against Virginia and the Jackets hope to get theirs this Saturday against the Tarheels.
The Yellow Jacket offense has been putting up absurd numbers this year, leading the nation in total offense, rushing, and points. The Jackets have scored on the first offensive play of each game so far. It hasn't all been on the ground either. Tevin Washington has shown that he can hurt them in the passing game if they sell out against the run. While Orwin Smith and Stephen Hill remain two of the most dangerous offensive threats the distribution has been all over the board. Embry Peeples, Roddy Jones, David Sims, and Tony Zenon have also had big plays for the Jackets. Still, some will claim that the Jackets haven't faced a tough enough opponent to prove much of anything yet.
That's where North Carolina comes in. They are 16th in the nation in rush defense at 77 yards per game and 36th in total defense. If the Jackets can continue to put up big numbers against this stout front seven then ears all around the nation will perk up. Expectations should be tempered as few expect the gaudy numbers of the first three games to continue, but the Carolina defense will still have an arduous road ahead between Bobby Dodd Way and North Avenue this Saturday. Quinton Coples is a player to watch as he's one of the nations best on the defensive line and will try to, along with linemate Kareem Martin, disrupt the option before it can get started. Meanwhile, Zach Brown and Kevin Reddick will try to track down the ball-carrier from the linebacker positions. A successful day against the Tarheels could foreshadow good things for the Jackets in the 2011 season.
It can be argued that the Tarheels have faced a tougher opening schedule against James Madison, Rutgers, and Virginia. The Heels are using the tandem of Giovanni Bernard and Ryan Houston to rush for 180 yards per game. Quarterback Bryn Renner has completed 57 out of 70 pass attempts for 5 TDs and 4 INTs. He's also throwing for 230 yards per game. A Tech defense that has been largely untested hopes to bring those numbers down for the rookie QB. Many believe Tech's defense has shown improvement in it's 2nd year running the 3-4 but, like the offense, the Tarheels should prove a much better measuring stick.
This Saturday's matchup is an enormous one for several reasons. 1) It's the first ACC game for Georgia Tech and if the Jackets want to be in the race then it's important for them to get started off on the right foot (or Heel). 2) There's a lot on the line in terms of proving that the performances from the first 3 games weren't solely due to inferior opponents. 3) Confidence. With the Jackets on the road next week against NC State continuing their success can help propel them to an important ACC road win next week while a loss could sour the season's strong start.
Who: North Carolina (HC Everett Withers) vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (HC Paul Johnson)
When: Saturday September 24th, 2011 @ 12:00 pm (ESPN)
Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium at Historic Grant Field, Atlanta, GA
- Tech still hasn't thrown an interception and has a +1 turnover margin (UNC has a -1.33 TO margin)
- Weather is expected to be fantastic again. (Wear sunscreen though!)
- Interim Coach Everitt Withers was the Tarheels DC before Butch Davis's firing.