It’s not a matter of if No. 13 North Carolina will be visiting Georgia Tech on Saturday in ACC action, only if the Heels are caught looking past the Jackets.
Which way to lean at the best sportsbooks?
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets vs. North Carolina Tar Heels
Saturday, November 19, 2022 – 05:30 PM EST at Kenan Memorial Stadium
ESPN2 has this ACC Coastal Division matchup, which No. 13 North Carolina already has won and will face Clemson in the conference title game. Georgia Tech would have to win this game and then the finale at No. 1 Georgia to get bowl eligible. Yeah, not happening.
Last year, Georgia Tech upset No. 21 North Carolina in Atlanta, 45-22. Jackets' QB Jeff Sims came off the bench to run for 3 touchdowns and pass for another; he rushed for 128 yards on 10 carries and completed 10 of 13 passes for 112 yards. More on Sims below.
Heels' QB Sam Howell, one of the best in school history but now in the NFL, was sacked 8 times and fumbled the ball away 3 times. He did throw for 2 scores and rush for 1.
Georgia Tech leads the all-time series 31-22-3. UNC is 13-11-2 all-time at home against Tech. The favorite is 4-1 against the spread on the NCAAF picks in the past 5 meetings.
Jackets Playing Out String
It has been another disappointing season for Georgia Tech, as it fired Coach Geoff Collins earlier this season; former associate head coach/offensive line coach Brent Key is the interim guy and will miss a bowl game for a fourth straight year.
No huge scuttlebutt yet on which coach Tech might look toward for the full-time role, although Jackson State’s Deion Sanders has been one rumored guy as he has ties to Atlanta from his days starring with the NFL’s Falcons.
Week 11's Performance
The Jackets didn’t look good in their home finale last Saturday losing 35-14 to a struggling Miami side. Quarterbacks Zach Gibson and Zach Pyron both had 2 picks.
Week 1 starter Jeff Sims had dressed the past 3 weeks while dealing with a foot injury and was listed as available on an emergency basis, but he didn't take a snap when Pyron was injured and had to leave against the Canes.
Sims and Pyron are now both done for the year, meaning the Akron transfer Gibson will start here. He is 25-for-51 for 224 yards with a TD and 2 picks on the year. Taisun Phommachanh, a transfer from Clemson, will serve as the primary backup. He hasn’t taken a snap in 2022.
Defensive Line Struggles
Georgia Tech entered last Saturday ranked No. 2 nationally with a plus-15 turnover margin but was minus-4. Despite losing the turnover battle for the first time this season, the Jackets still rank 5th nationally in turnover margin (plus-11).
The Jackets have really struggled on defense this year despite having a terrific linebacking duo in Ayinde Eley and Charlie Thomas. The All-America candidates have combined for tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries, and 2 interceptions.
Tech is 3-3 under Key and does have a road upset of a ranked team under his watch: 26-21 at then-No. 24 Pittsburgh on Oct. 1. GT is 4-9 ATS in its past 13 conference games.
Ranking Outside Top 10
Can North Carolina get to the College Football Playoff sitting at No. 13 in the latest rankings? History says no, as no team has been ranked outside the Top 10 at this point in the season and still made the CFP. The lowest was Michigan State in 2015 and Oklahoma in 2019 when both were 9th.
UNC is +800 to make it at the best sportsbooks and -1400 to miss out. There’s a chance, but the Heels have to just crush Tech this week, NC State next week, and then Clemson in the ACC title game and get some help.
Maye Is Nation’s Top Freshman
Carolina won its 6th straight game last Saturday (the lone loss of the year was out of conference to Notre Dame) 36-34 at Wake Forest, as freshman quarterback Drake Maye threw for 448 yards and 3 scores and rushed for 71 and a touchdown. He’s a stud and is +650 to win the Heisman Trophy while being named a semifinalist for nearly every other major award and would probably win ACC Offensive Player of the Year.
Maye has completed 70.1% of his passes for 3,412 yards, 34 touchdowns, and just 3 picks while rushing for 584 yards and 5 TDs. He leads the nation in passing touchdowns (34), and total offense (399.6), ranks second in passing yards per game (341.2) and is 3rd in passing efficiency (178.9).
He is tied for first nationally with 39 total touchdowns (34 pass, 5 rush) and 236 points accounted for. The win over Wake was Maye's national-leading 6th second-half comeback of the season.
Led by Maye, the Heels have scored on 43-of-47 red-zone possessions (91.5%) that didn't end in kneel-downs, with 37 of those instances resulting in touchdowns (78.7%). That latter number is 5th in the nation and first among Power 5 schools. In red zone trips, Maye has gone 42-of-63 for 352 yards and 22 TDs, to go along with 5 rushing TDs.
In addition, UNC has converted 16-of-23 fourth downs (69.6%). The 16 conversions include 4 TDs, 9 that led to TDs, and one that ended a game.
The only minor worry here is UNC looking past Tech toward rival NC State, but the Heels need to make a statement to the CFP committee with a blowout. Plus, they get to face a third-string QB.
According to the NCAAF odds, UNC is 5-2 ATS in its past 5 ACC games.
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