Georgia Tech gets plenty of attention for being one of the nation’s best rushing teams with its triple-option attack, but its defense is a big reason why it enters Saturday’s home contest with North Carolina having won two games in a row. The Yellow Jackets, who lead the country in rushing offense, rank 14th in total defense and did not allow a point after each of the offense’s four lost fumbles in last week’s 35-17 victory over Pittsburgh.
“In the last two (games) we’ve played much better,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson told reporters Tuesday, referring to a defense that has forced 19 three-and-outs in 37 defensive series this season, the second-highest percentage (51.4 percent) in the nation. The Tar Heels have dropped three of their first four games, but head coach Larry Fedora told reporters Monday he is pleased with the progression of quarterback Chazz Surratt through three career starts. “He took the ball where it needed to go,” Fedora said of Surratt, who passed for 259 yards in last week’s 27-17 defeat to Duke. UNC has led in the fourth quarter in all four games this season, but faces a Georgia Tech program it has beaten each of the past three years.
TV: noon ET, ESPN2. LINE: Georgia Tech -9 ½
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (1-3, 0-2 ACC): The Tar Heels lost more than a game last week as leading receiver Austin Proehl (left arm) and defensive tackle Tyler Powell (right knee) were injured, and their status for Saturday is uncertain. Surratt completed 17-of-32 passes last week and added 77 yards rushing, but threw a critical interception that was returned for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Safety Myles Dorn recorded a career-high 11 tackles against Duke, but the Tar Heels are 12th in the ACC and 104th nationally in scoring defense, allowing 33 points per game.
ABOUT GEORGIA TECH (2-1, 1-0): The Yellow Jackets have clicked since a season-opening loss to Tennessee, entering this week averaging a nation’s-best 393.7 yards rushing per game. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall has rushed for 386 yards and five touchdowns in three games, while running back KirVonte Benson finished with 196 yards on the ground last week. After allowing only 235 yards of total offense last week, the Yellow Jackets are giving up 264.3 yards per game.
1. UNC has been outscored 54-20 in the fourth quarter this season.
2. The Yellow Jackets, who seek a 2-0 ACC start for the fourth time in the past seven seasons, play four of their final six conference games away from home.
3. In the past five meetings, Georgia Tech and UNC have combined to average 65.7 yards per game, including a 68-50 Yellow Jackets victory in 2012.
PREDICTION: Georgia Tech 37, North Carolina 21