Georgia Tech faces a familiar and, in recent years, pernicious opponent Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. North Carolina has gotten the better of the Yellow Jackets in the past three years, leading to this week’s question:
Can Georgia Tech turn the tide of recent history and slow down the Tar Heels?
Georgia Tech once owned North Carolina, having won five in a row 2009 to 2013 and 12 out of 14 from 1998 to 2013. However, the Tar Heels have won the past three years, including a 48-20 blowout in Chapel Hill, N.C.
It’s the longest active losing streak that Tech has to an ACC opponent. The Jackets lost in a shootout in 2014 (48-43), after leading by 21 points in 2015 (38-31; it set a school record for largest lead given up in a loss) and by getting fed into a shredder by UNC’s uptempo offense (48-20).
It is testament to the work done at North Carolina by coach Larry Fedora, who was hired in 2012. In the 2014-16 seasons, UNC was 17-7 in ACC play, the best record of any team in the Coastal Division.
His uptempo offense has been at the heart of the three wins. North Carolina has averaged 542.7 yards per game against the Jackets, averaging 7.6 yards per snap. In all of Tech’s other ACC games in that time, opponents have averaged 6.0 yards per play, meaning the Tar Heels have moved the ball 27 percent more efficiently against Tech than the rest of the league.
“There’s no secret we’ve struggled defensively against these guys,” coach Paul Johnson said Monday. “They’ve lit us up here for the last little bit. It’s a chance for our defense to come out.”
Having lost a wealth of offensive talent from the 2016 team – notably quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, selected No. 2 overall in the draft – the Tar Heels appear more vulnerable this season. By reversing the streak, Tech can start 2-0 in ACC play for just the fourth time in coach Paul Johnson’s tenure.