It is said that late Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz had a strange habit of being contrarian no matter what. If someone criticized the comic strip, he would counter-attack with fierce pride. But when accepting praise for his art form, Schulz would calmly point out the flaws in it.
And the same is true of fabled Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson. Having steered the program for about a decade now, Johnson plays rough with those who dare challenge his unique team’s ethics or aptitude. Pittsburgh coach Pat Narduzzi found that out the hard way, engaging in a war-of-words with Johnson over blocking tactics and getting a “scoreboard education” beat-down, 35-17, followed by zingers in the Georgia Tech press room.
But as strong as his outfit may look on the field, the coach isn’t pleased, citing the 2017 team’s propensity to fumble, and inconsistent defense/special teams – a curse which has plagued the ‘Jackets forever.
This weekend the Ramblin’ Wreck hosts the North Carolina Tar Heels, a tough and talented ACC team whose 1-3 record may be deceptive.
Who: North Carolina Tar Heels at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
When: Saturday, September 30th, 12 PM EST
Where: Bobby Dodd Stadium, Atlanta, GA
Lines: UNC (+9.5) at Georgia Tech (-9.5) / O/U Total: (60)
The point spread for Saturday afternoon in Atlanta began at (+10.5) and shrank below 10 points quickly. Bettors correctly asserted that there are 3 real possibilities in this game – Georgia Tech wins big, Georgia Tech prevails by a touchdown or a field goal, or the Tar Heels win a squeaker. Picking North Carolina and 10+ points is a simple odds play based on the parity of the ACC.
But if pundits are still under-valuing the depth of Clemson’s league after the 2017 CFP, does that mean even a (9.5) spread shouldn’t dissuade gamblers from picking the guests? UNC stood proud against California and #17-ranked Louisville, and Duke (who the Tar Heels fell 27-17 to in Week 4) is a better team than most realize.
WR Austin Proehl is hurt, but freshman sensation Chazz Surratt still has weapons to throw to. The QB was 12-of-14 with 2 TDs in limited action against Louisville, and has only thrown one interception on the year.
But Surratt has taken 7 sacks, 6 of which came in about 10 quarters against Duke, UL and Cal. Georgia Tech has improved its pass rush this season, and a loud ATL crowd means difficult 3rd-and-long situations for an underclassman QB to deal with. Yes, the ‘Heels are just as physical as GT on the LOS – most ACC squads out-weigh the Ramblin’ Wreck on a 2-deep level. But this could be bad timing for Larry Fedora’s team.
The ‘Jackets are used to bad field position due to a modest defense. But the enhanced pass rush will frustrate a frosh QB missing a starting WR. That will give talented TaQuon Marshall a chance to run and throw for touchdowns and guide the home team to 30+ points, with or without a few miscues along the way.
We’re going with Georgia Tech to cover…and not just because of the reduced point spread. North Carolina may be the finest football team in the land to be 1-4 after 5 weeks, but they will be. And with an average kicking game and no 2nd-half surge against the TOP-gobbling ‘Wreck, a 10-point margin is more likely than not.