ATLANTA (AP) — North Carolina began spending extra practice time on Georgia Tech's spread option offense over the summer. More opportunity for added preparation came with an off week before Saturday's game.
Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora had good motivation to devote the extra attention to the game. North Carolina's defense was overwhelmed in a 68-50 loss to Georgia Tech last season that was the highest-scoring game in Atlantic Coast Conference history.
This week the Yellow Jackets are bringing more than the spread attack with the triple-option wizardry. Coach Paul Johnson has introduced a diamond alignment out of the shotgun that caused extra concerns for Fedora and his staff.
"The triple-option obviously with what they do is enough," Fedora said. "Then they added the new formation. They're doing some really good things out of it. They're running four or five different running plays out of it. They're throwing the ball out of it."
North Carolina (1-1, 0-0 ACC) will try for its first win at Georgia Tech (2-0, 1-0) since 1997.
Here are five things to watch in the important ACC Coastal Division game:
DIAMOND OR NO DIAMOND: Normally, Georgia Tech has a fullback called a B-back lined up behind quarterback Vad Lee. Two more running backs called A-backs are spread outside. In the diamond, Lee lines up in the shotgun and the running backs are all in the backfield for the snap. Predictably, Johnson was cagy as he called the new formation "just a little change-up." He suggested he used the new look for only a couple plays in last week's 38-14 win at Duke. "We may line up in it and run a whole game, or may line up in it and run none," he said.
BETTER D FOR TAR HEELS: North Carolina associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning said he has challenged the Tar Heels to avoid a repeat of last year's defensive breakdowns against Georgia Tech. "This year we've been preaching toughness, we've been preaching hard edge, we've been preaching testing their manhood," said Koenning, who added there will be no excuses after all the extra practice time devoted to the game.