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Georgia Tech vs. North Carolina Prediction: Tar Heels Aim for Their 10th Win When They Host the Yellow Jackets

UNC has won six in a row and the ACC Coastal champs are looking to stay perfect in conference play.

The good news for Georgia Tech is the season is coming to an end soon. After a brief upturn following the dismissal of head coach Geoff Collins, the Yellow Jackets (4-6, 3-4 ACC) have dropped three of their last four games, including their most recent defeat, a 35-14 home loss to Miami.

The bad news is that before facing No. 1 Georgia in the season finale, Tech has a date with 9-1 North Carolina. The Tar Heels have wrapped up the Coastal Division (6-0 in conference) and will play Clemson in Charlotte on the first Saturday of December. But at No. 13 in the most recent College Football Playoff rankings, the Heels have plenty left to play for over their last two regular-season games.

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 12

Because of the scheduling quirks of the COVID season, Carolina has not hosted Georgia Tech since 2018. The Yellow Jackets hold the all-time series edge 31-22-3.

Georgia Tech at No. 13 North Carolina

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 12 at 5:30 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN2
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: North Carolina -21
Tickets: As low as $44 on SITickets.com

When Georgia Tech Has the Ball

With Jeff Sims now out for the season, the quarterback position has gone from shaky to extremely shaky. Last week versus Miami, Zach Pyron got the call but he also suffered a season-ending injury, forcing Zach Gibson into the lineup going forward. Gibson, an Akron transfer, completed 12 of his 21 throws against Miami with one touchdown and two interceptions. The new starter's first look on most plays will undoubtedly be Nate McCollum, a junior who has blossomed this year into a go-to target for the Yellow Jackets.

Georgia Tech has run the ball well in a couple of games this season, but for the most part, this offense has struggled to get a ground game going, averaging 137 yards per game. Hassan Hall and Dontae Smith split most of the carries, but the Hurricanes shut both down last Saturday. The offensive woes have been a team effort, as the line has had problems opening up holes and has surrendered 35 sacks on the season.

It's easy to pick apart North Carolina's defense. The Tar Heels are 13th in the ACC in rushing defense and last in both passing, total, and scoring defense. But in recent weeks, when this group has needed to make plays, it has done so. Pitt had 17 points in the first half; just seven in the second. And this past Saturday, down 34-33 entering the final stanza, the Carolina defense put a necessary zero on the board as the Heels won 36-34. It may not matter as much this week, but considering what lies ahead, defensive coordinator Gene Chizik needs to see continued improvement.

When North Carolina Has the Ball

Barring some unforeseen change, I believe Drake Maye should win the Heisman Trophy. No player has been more important to his team's success, and though the trophy is not a true most valuable player award, Maye also has the stats to back up his candidacy. Last Saturday was another showcase performance with 448 passing yards, three TD passes, 71 yards on the ground, and a rushing score.

Having Josh Downs back at 100 percent certainly helps. The star receiver was amazing, with 11 grabs for 154 yards and all three of Maye's touchdown passes. What was a moribund running game has been revived in the past two weeks thanks to sophomore Elijah Green, who had 157 combined yards against Virginia and Wake Forest. While he won't challenge the all-time rushing record, giving the Heels any type of running threat opens up even more for Maye and Downs.

Considering the ineptitude of the Georgia Tech offense, you have to give its defense a lot of credit. Yes, the Yellow Jackets were bludgeoned by Ole Miss and Florida State, but they have been at least respectable in their other games. Even though Miami put up 35 points last weekend, the Hurricanes had just 353 total yards. The run defense has been an issue and if Green has another good showing it will be virtually impossible to slow down the Heels. But Ayinde Eley and Charlie Thomas have spearheaded a unit that hasn't quit this season.

Final Analysis

North Carolina has played a lot of close games this year. This won't be another. Georgia Tech has to be at its breaking point and its offense has had trouble scoring even with Sims and Pyron at quarterback. While there are questions about the Carolina defense, the Yellow Jackets will have a tough time moving the ball with their third-string signal-caller taking snaps. And since no one has contained Maye and the UNC offense this year, it's unlikely Georgia Tech will be the first. In a blowout, the Tar Heels get to 10 wins for just the second time in the last 25 years.

Prediction: North Carolina 45, Georgia Tech 14

Podcast: Week 12 Preview, Predictions, and Picks Against the Spread + Reaction to CFB Playoff Top 25 Rankings

Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, focusing on the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.

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