North Carolina at Ga. Tech – Sept. 26 (12 PM)

North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina is currently one of four ACC teams ranked in the AP Top 25 after starting the season 3-0. Saturday’s game against Tech marks the beginning of the Tar Heels’ ACC schedule.

The UNC defense has held teams to an average of 200 yards per game of total offense and forced at least one turnover in each game. They have allowed just three touchdowns on the season and 33 total points in three games. In their game against East Carolina University last week, sophomore defensive end Robert Quinn had a career-high two sacks in a 31-17 victory.

Against Connecticut in week two, UNC’s offense gained just 268 total yards and committed two turnovers, but their defense was able to hold the Huskies to 196 yards of offense. The Tar Heels came back in the fourth quarter and, with the score tied at 10, they took the lead when a rare Huskies holding penalty in the end zone resulted in a safety. UNC held on to win 12-10.

While the offense is averaging nearly 30 points a game, they have still struggled to hold on to the ball. The Tar Heels defense was able to force seven turnovers, but the offense has committed the same number of turnovers. The offense has been led by junior quarterback T.J. Yates, who has thrown for 574 yards, and junior running back Shaun Draughn, who has rushed for 223 yards on 53 carries.

Their production has become better as the season has gone on, with Yates increasing his passer rating by more than 30 points from his first outing against The Citadel, when he was 9-for-20 for 114 yards. Draughn rebounded from a rough game against UConn to post 84 yards on the ground in the win over East Carolina.

Tech’s run offense, No. 16 in the nation with nearly 250 yards on the ground per game, faces the Tar Heels’ run defense, No. 7 in the nation after holding their first three opponents to an average of 52.3 yards per game. The UNC offensive line will look to better protect Yates with Tech redshirt junior defensive lineman Robert Hall being out for the game.

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

After the first three games of the season the jackets are struggling on both sides of the ball. With a defense that is currently ranked in the bottom third in FBS, giving up an average of 377 yards per game, and an offense that has struggled to open up opportunities through the air, the Jackets are looking to rebound in their third home game of the season against North Carolina.

The Jackets will need a renewed spark on offense when they take on the No. 6 defense in the nation. Tech has lacked last year’s luster, breaking a handful of big runs but generally not serving as the weapon it was in 2008. Junior B-back Jonathan Dwyer is only averaging 56 yards per game, which still has him in the top hundred rushers in the nation but well below last year’s average. Junior quarterback Josh Nesbitt leads the team in rushing with 71 yards per game, but currently has thrown just one more touchdown this season than junior place kicker Scott Blair, with two and one respectively for the season.

Junior defensive end Derrick Morgan has been a bright spot for the defense. Morgan is averaging one and two-third sacks per game this season and has six and a half tackles for loss on the season, setting back the opposing offenses 31 yards. The defense as a whole has struggled over the past two games, though, particularly in pass defense.

Tech will look to avenge last year’s loss to the Tar Heels, a 28-7 decision on the road in which the Jackets had a number of opportunities but were unable to capitalize. Dwyer had 157 rushing yards in last year’s contest, including a 85-yard touchdown run, but with the junior nursing a shoulder injury, Tech will need to rely on outside runs with the A-backs more often. Defensively, the Jackets will look to shut down UNC running backs Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston, who combined for 164 yards and two touchdowns in last year’s meeting.