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Miami v North Carolina

by Sharon Thorsland

North Carolina fans were starting to get a little cocky. They were actually entertaining hopes of not only playing for an ACC championship but also a national championship. Well, that bubble is now burst, thanks to an awful loss to a then 1-5 Virginia team, at home. But all hope is not lost. The Tar Heels are still 6-1 on the season with key games against Duke and Clemson left that will impact at least the ACC title game. But first the Heels have to contend with Georgia Tech (3-4, 2-2 ACC). They take on the Rambling Wreck on Saturday night at Bobby Dodd Stadium, kick-off is set for 8:00 on WBT.

Georgia Tech has had an up and down season, with a win over then undefeated Miami but inexplicable losses to the likes of Bowling Green and Boston College. That loss to the Eagles came last week when the Yellow Jackets gave up three fourth-quarter touchdowns. Late meltdowns have been a trend for them, the Jackets have been outscored 76-48 in the final period this season. Stopping the run has been an issue, they’re last in the ACC and 4th worst in the nation allowing over 227 yards per game. That’s good news for the Tar Heels, who feature the league’s top rushing attack and number one rusher in Omarion Hampton, who for some reason only carried the ball five times in the second half against Virginia. The Jackets struggle across the board on defense, they’re last in the league in total yards allowed and 12th in point allowed. Edge rusher Kyle Kennard leads the Jackets in tackles and sacks, safety Jaylon King has a pair of interceptions. They’ll have their hands full with a UNC offense that is number one in the league and has Drake Maye under center, he leads the league in passing.

Georgia Tech’s offense is solid but inconsistent. Quarterback Haynes King has thrown for over 1800 yards and an impressive 17 touchdowns through seven games, but he’s also got nine interceptions, seven of those coming in the last three games. He’s also a threat to run, picking up 53 yards per game on the ground. His top receiver is Eric Singleton, who’s picked up 355 yards and five touchdowns. Malik Rutherford has 28 catches, with Christian Leary and Dominick Blaylock combining for 33 grabs and three touchdowns. And the Jackets have an excellent offensive line – Tech is 12th in the nation in sacks allowed. Running back Jamal Haynes is 8th in the ACC in rushing yards with 465 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 5.5 yards per carry. They’ll face a UNC defense that has been okay against the run but has some studs, including linebacker Cedric Gray, who is second in the ACC in tackles.

After the meltdown against Virginia last week, I’m assuming no one on this team is looking past Georgia Tech. To stay in the hunt for an ACC title, the Tar Heels have to win this game. And winning in Atlanta is something they have had great difficulty doing – the Heels have lost 10 of their last 12 games at Georgia Tech, and they’ve dropped three straight overall and four of the last five in the rivalry. Can UNC reverse that trend? If they run, run, and run some more, and let Maye work his magic, I say they get it done. Go Tar Heels!