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Expert Analysis: UNC's Keys, Score Prediction vs. Georgia Tech - 247Sports

Author: 247Sports

Source: https://247sports.com/college/north-carolina/longformarticle/expert-analysis-uncs-keys-score-prediction-vs-georgia-tech-218943897/

Image of Expert Analysis: UNC's Keys, Score Prediction vs. Georgia Tech - 247Sports

Inside Carolina experts give an in-depth breakdown of what to expect Saturday.North Carolina enters its Week 9 matchup at Georgia Tech as an 11.5-point favorite.The Tar Heels were favored by more than that in last season's loss to the Yellow Jackets and can't afford to take them for granted this year, especially after the loss to Virginia last week, according to Inside Carolina's Greg Barnes."People need to be well aware that Carolina isn't past sleepwalking against an opponent; they're just not there as a program yet," Barnes said on The Game Plan show."Carolina has lost 10-of-12 in Atlanta.It's going to be a tough game.Georgia Tech has won three straight and four of the last five against ranked ACC foes. They've shown a tendency to elevate their play when it is a big-time opponent that they're playing."Below, Barnes and fellow IC expert Jason Staples provide an in-depth breakdown of what to expect from UNC, plus the players and matchups that will decide whether the Tar Heels improve to 7-1 or take a loss that could prove fatal for its ACC title game hopes.Here are the key storylines and the Tar Heels' blueprint for success against the Yellow Jackets:INITIAL THOUGHTS ON THE LOSS TO VIRGINIA, MATCHUP WITH GEORGIA TECHBarnes: "It's a rare thing for a team picked by that much to lose the way North Carolina did.There was no reason for them to lose that game, especially being at home in a primetime setting.We were beginning to believe that maybe this team was different than some of these previous teams that had inexplicable losses.This team hasn't proven that it is different. People need to be well aware that Carolina isn't past sleepwalking against an opponent; they're just not there as a program yet.That's on the coaching staff.If last weekend was not the wake-up call that they needed, then forget it.This team will not actually contend for an ACC Championship.If they understand that every time they take a snap, it's an opportunity to prepare for the next opponent, then they'll get back on track and play well this weekend. It is a gut-check game.We'll learn a lot about this program."UNC'S HANDLING OF OMARION HAMPTON AGAINST VIRGINIA WASN'T IRRESPONSIBLE Barnes: "Unless they just make a dramatic change, I don't know if there's ever going to be a situation where this Carolina team is up by 10 points and does nothing but run the ball.I would be shocked.This is not anything Lindsey has ever done.I don't think that's smart football these days. And it's not like Carolina has a dominant offensive line where they could do it anyway.Red zone touchdown percentage, last year's team was better than this year's team through seven games.You may be more conservative, but that doesn't necessarily mean it is going to be three yards and a pile of dust.I understand the frustration that Hampton didn't run the ball more late.Going back and watching it, I didn't think it was irresponsible what took place. They were just trying to hit on some things, and it just didn't work out.Once you get behind chains, you're limited with what you can do."WHY HAS ATLANTA BEEN A HOUSE OF HORRORS FOR UNC ATHLETICS?Staples: "It is a bit of a mystery to me, especially since it's both football and basketball.It's bizarre.My best guess is they probably need to keep those guys away from The Varsity restaurant the day before the game.I don't know what's going on. Anything that would be football-specific wouldn't account for the trouble that basketball has had down there.Some of it just has to be the randomness inherent to the game.North Carolina is a team that Georgia Tech takes really seriously and probably puts a lot into in both sports.With football, the weirdness of the Paul Johnson offense and trying to defend what they did for so long makes it make sense.They didn't do a great job against that. The weird thing is that it kept going after Johnson left and even when Georgia Tech was really bad.I don't have a great explanation for that."UNC HAS THE TALENT TO WIN A TOUGH GAME IN ATLANTA Barnes: "Carolina has lost 10-of-12 in Atlanta.It's going to be a tough game.Georgia Tech is not as good this year as they were last year, even though they've got a better quarterback.It is a team that has played very well against ranked opponents. They have won three straight and four of the last five against ranked ACC foes.They've shown a tendency to elevate their play when it is a big-time opponent that they're playing.Carolina, because they are the better team, provided they learned from last week, which I think they will, are going to be ok.That doesn't mean they're going to win, but they will be in the right mind space.They've got the talent to go down there and win a tough game."CHIP LINDSEY'S OFFENSE IS NOT THAT DIFFERENT THAN PHIL LONGO'SBarnes: "The entire offseason was a critique of Phil Longo and how he is not any good in the red zone and how he just did not have the ability to run the ball when they wanted to run the ball when everybody knew they were going to run the ball. We tried to highlight in the offseason that you can do some things differently schematically, which they've done.But the other team has players, too.Carolina converted more third and shorts last year than Georgia and Alabama did on a percentage basis.Chip Lindsey has said a lot of the things Phil did, 'You take what the defense gives you.' There was an idea that you bring in a new person, and you have a completely changed mindset.It's different, but it's not that different."UNC'S D-LINE HASN'T 'REGRESSED' BUT SOUTH CAROLINA WAS AN OUTLIERStaples: "I don't think they've regressed. It looks a little bit like they've regressed because they had 16 tackles for loss in the opener.They've had 24 since.It's not that they've regressed; there's a massive outlier at the beginning of the season that gave a different impression than what this team really is upfront.They had five tackles for loss against Virginia and six against Miami.Those are the two highest totals they've had all season, other than that South Carolina game. They are who they are."THE LACK OF PRODUCTION FROM THE D-TACKLE SPOT IS DISAPPOINTING Staples: "Maybe the most disappointing thing this season is that the defensive tackle play has been underwhelming from the jump.Kaimon Rucker and Des Evans have been among the better edges in the conference.They've not gotten the difference-making defensive tackle play that they hoped for all season.Myles Murphy has got 2.5 tackles for loss and one quarterback hurry.That's underwhelming. Tomari Fox has 1.5 tackles for loss.You're just not getting a ton of production from that position.You'd hope that Travis Shaw would show you more than he has, but he hasn't.That's been a problem on this defense.The defensive tackle position has been really average."UNC NEEDS TO GET PRESSURE ON HAYNES KINGBarnes: "Haynes King is the guy that kind of makes everything click, but they've got several running backs that are really good. Georgia Tech's offensive stats are really impressive.Virginia ranks No.124th nationally at 3.0 yards per carry.Georgia Tech is No.23 nationally at 5.1 yards per carry. Haynes King is averaging 7.4 yards per carry.Georgia Tech has not given up many sacks.King is really good when kept clean.He's not very good at all under pressure.He is a turnover machine, and Carolina needs to capitalize. If he's able to stay clean in the pocket, it's going to be tough.If you get him under a little bit of duress, you're going to have the opportunity to create some turnovers.Carolina has to slow down the running game.If you can do that, then you're able to get after the quarterback and create some of these turnover opportunities."LIMIT THE RUN GAME AND PROTECT OVER TOP, AND THE TAR HEELS SHOULD BE GOODStaples: "Georgia Tech doesn't have a bunch of guys that are big.They do have some receivers who can fly. You look down the list of their receivers, and they're all guys that can run.If you lose them, they can hurt you deep.The first priority is not to get beat over the top.King's completion percentage is under 60%.That's the base-level accuracy you'd expect in the college game. He's not a guy that's going to hit his target all the time."They're going to try to run it, run it, run it, run it.That puts you in a bind defensively.You have to focus on limiting that running game, which is really what they do best.King is a very fast quarterback.They will run the football on you if you don't take that away. You're pressing the line of scrimmage as much as you can while keeping them from being able to throw deep and over the top."TWO KEY STATSBarnes: "Georgia Tech ranks dead last in the ACC in rushing yards per carry.And they're allowing 5.3 yards per carry, which is a lot.Virginia is about a full yard better than that.Georgia Tech leads the ACC in plays of 10-plus yards.What we're going to be talking about is a very explosive Georgia Tech offense and a very porous Georgia Tech run defense."FINAL SCORE PREDICTIONSBarnes: "Carolina lost all three phases of the game last week. Carolina is going to have to win with a team effort this week.All three phases need to be strong to win on the road.Unless Carolina wins the turnover margin, I don't see this game being a double-digit victory for UNC.I don't see them covering.It has the potential to be a shootout. I do think Carolina bounces back from the Virginia game.Carolina is the more talented team.Drake Maye and Omarion Hampton are going to respond.I've got North Carolina winning this 38-31."Staples: "I'm not sure that Carolina psychologically is in a place where they're likely to overlook this team.It's hard to bet against Drake Maye in a game that is likely to have some points scored. This is a one-score game.I'm not comfortable with the way that Georgia Tech runs the football, especially with how they involve the quarterback in the running game.This is one of those games that Carolina is going to have to win on offense.You're going to have a better showing from the receivers and also from Drake to win this.I'm going to go Carolina 38-34. This game could very well go the other way."

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