CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — One week ago, Georgia Tech was coming off impressive victories over Virginia Tech and Miami and appeared in control in the ACC Coastal Division. Then the Yellow Jackets lost at home to Duke, and the noise and public doubt returned.
What Jackets will show up tonight? Tech plays a team it should beat, North Carolina, even if winning on the road sometimes is problematic. The Tar Heels lost four straight and their only two wins this season have come over Liberty and San Diego State.
Paul Johnson is an offensive coach. North Carolina is a defensive wreck.
The Tar Heels rank last in the ACC and 124th nationally (out of 125) in scoring defense (43.3 points per game) and last in the conference and 117th nationally in total defense (507.5 yards per game). In this four-game losing streak, North Carolina has allowed 70 points to East Carolina, 50 to Clemson, 34 to Virginia Tech — that was the “good” game — and 50 to Notre Dame.
Johnson is looking for a bounce-back game for his offense, after Tech turned the ball over three times in the 31-25 loss to Duke. It was a season-low scoring output for the Jackets, who managed just one touchdown in the first three quarters. If they can’t do better against the Heels, something is wrong.
Quarterback Justin Thomas might have been plagued by an ankle injury last week and he missed two days of practice early in the week. He’ll start tonight but it wouldn’t be surprising to see backup Tim Byerly get increased snaps.
Mostly what Tech needs tonight is to play better. Guard Trey Braun told the AJC’s Ken Sugiura that focus “kind of obviously was” a problem against Duke. Tech’s margin for error isn’t as great as maybe some of the problems believed after the wins over Virginia Tech and Miami. The North Carolina game is as much a test about their mental state as it will be their offense.
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