North Carolina plays host to Tech this Saturday at noon. The Tar Heels are looking to stop a recent trend of losses to Tech. They have lost four of the last five games played at Chapel Hill and nine of the last 10 games overall to the Yellow Jackets.
After having a week off, UNC may have its most daunting task this season. The Jackets are averaging 242 yards per game on the ground and have the ACC leading rusher in Jonathan Dwyer, who has rushed for 899 yards in nine games. The Tar Heels’ front seven, led by senior linebacker Mark Paschal, who leads the UNC defense in tackles and tackles for loss, will have to stay alert and disciplined for any chance to counteract the misdirection of Tech’s option offense.
Another important aspect of this game will be the quarterback play for UNC. Although there is some controversy as to who will start for the Tar Heels at quarterback, both Cameron Sexton and T.J. Yates have played exceptionally well this season. Sexton leads the ACC with a passer rating of 137.5 while Yates has a rating 115.9. They have combined for 12 touchdowns and four interceptions on the season. Both quarterbacks must stay patient and not take too many risks. The Jackets may be starting two true sophomores and two true freshmen in the secondary, but they currently have the No. 16 nationally ranked passing defense and the ACC’s best defensive line.
In this game of two evenly matched teams, special teams may play a factor in the outcome. UNC has the No. 33 best punt return unit in the country with 11.81 yards per return, while Tech is No. 43 in net punting with 36.21 net yards per punt.
The Jackets enter Saturday’s game after their biggest win of the season. Tech rose to No. 20 in the BCS Rankings and first place in the ACC Coastal Division after beating FSU in a thrilling game, 31–28.
In order to get a win against the Tar Heels, Tech will have to continue to rely on its opportunistic defense to force the opposing team into mistakes. Not only are the Jackets leading the ACC with 25 takeaways thus far, but when tying or winning the turnover battle they are 7–1 in games this season with the only loss coming to Virginia. Tech also leads the nation in tackles for loss with over 8.8 per game.
Offensively, Tech should look to run the ball against North Carolina’s stingy defense. Although the Tar Heels are No. 32 in rushing defense and No. 80 in passing defense in the NCAA, they lead the ACC with 17 interceptions and are tied for last in the conference in fumbles recovered with 4 this season. The running game has carried the Yellow Jackets all season earning them the 8th ranked rushing attack in the nation, and there is no reason why they should abandon it now.
After losses to Virginia and Virginia Tech, the Ramblin’ Wreck has been given new life on its goal to get to Tampa. This game will be the second time this season that two ranked ACC teams have played each other.