The ACC matchup that everyone enjoys watching each season has rolled around yet again. The Yellow Jackets face QB Bryn Renner and the 1-1 Tar Heels on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. If this game is anything like the 2012 meeting between the two teams, there will be lots of offense, very little defense, tons of scoring and lots of questions.
The two teams last met on November 10, 2012, combining for a score of 118, the highest scoring ACC game of all time. The first two quarters happened to be shootout, but somehow, UNC lost their defense sometime after halftime, giving Georgia Tech the opportunity to run away with the lead.
As the score would indicate, both sides had career days. Bryn Renner was 24 of 35 and threw for 350 yards and two TDs, while Vad Lee had 23 carries for 112 yards and two TDs. Robert Godhigh had 3 TDs, catching two and running for one, while Jamal Golden ran a kick back 100 yards for a touchdown. UNC’s Romar Morris ran for a TD as well, and Giovani Bernard had his longest reception that day, a 78-yard catch that he hauled in to score. Although Coach Paul Johnson’s team put up 68 points, he was actually hoping to score more. They’d missed a 2-point conversion earlier in the game.
Notice I didn’t mention any defense, here?
Both Georgia Tech and UNC have had their struggles on both sides of the ball. High-powered offenses combined with defenses that can’t make stops when they matter make for a game that goes back and forth until one team picks up on the one successful play that the other team has. This season, I’m hoping for a more defensive battle. Georgia Tech has obviously improved their defense, as we saw in the game against Duke last week. Despite letting a few passes get behind them, they held the Blue Devils to two scores.
However, the run defense was all that was really being tested. Renner is certainly capable of going to the air, and his receivers aren’t afraid to get to the ball. My concern is that Georgia Tech’s defense will get extremely comfortable with only defending the run, something they’ve done well in the first 2 games, and start letting passes weave their way into the secondary. I’m looking for a defensive balance to take place, giving equal aggression to both the run and the pass.
I’m also looking for UNC’s defensive improvement. They allowed 68 points to be scored and a total of 588 yards. Those stats alone were a clear sign that the Tar Heels were in trouble. I expect the defense to force more turnovers and actually capitalize on them. Good teams learn to capitalize on the other team’s mistakes. UNC’s defense also looked winded last season. Although the temperature won’t be extreme on Saturday, conditioning comes into play when facing a team with several speed backs and a running QB.
On another note, I have to say that although I’m a Tech fan, both of my parents are from North Carolina, and I was also raised a Tar Heels fan. This game is difficult simply because I feel like I have to choose a side. Therefore, I will sit in front of the television wearing a Tech shirt and a Tar Heels hat, convincing myself that no matter who wins, everyone is a winner because I love both teams. Luckily, you’re allowed this type of leeway in college football. If this were the NFL, I would be hounded by diehards questioning my loyalty to one team.