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Thursday, October 8, 2009

UNC - Georgia Southern preview: Heels need statement from offense

Posted by on Thu, Oct 8, 2009 at 8:53 PM

North Carolina (3-2) vs. Georgia Southern (3-2)

[3:30 p.m., Oct. 10, Kenan Memorial Stadium]

ESPN360.com

click to enlarge Will the Tar Heels be fired up for another FCS team? (Photo by Rob Rowe)
  • Will the Tar Heels be fired up for another FCS team? (Photo by Rob Rowe)

"Hello Roy Williams, goodbye Butch Davis."  At least, that's what UNC fans seem to be pondering this week as the Heels play what needs to be a morale booster against Georgia Southern.

Although UNC must win for reputation sake, this game carries no postseason importance.  The Heels can only count one win against an FCS team for the six-win bowl requirement.

Sleeping on the Eagles will be dangerous, though.  With 14 returning starters and nothing to lose, the pressure will be entirely on the Carolina low-octane offense.  One thing is for sure; panic will ensue if the Heels lose and fall to 3-3.

Key stats: UNC's offense ranks 106th in the nation in time of possession despite a top-10 defense that gets the offense the ball time and time again.

Quite frankly John Shoop's crew cannot score against BCS-caliber teams this season.  In three games (UConn, Georgia Tech and Virginia) the Heels managed to score 20 points on offense, essentially less than a touchdown per game.

It's not like there aren't any playmakers, though.  Running backs Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston behind any decent line (see last season) can do the job effectively.  And T.J. Yates makes good decisions when he's not running for his life.

The key stats not just for this game but for the rest of the season will be the production on offense, period.  If the offensive line's health and play improve, then the skill players will put up enough points to get the Heels to a bowl game.  If not, Davis will be lucky if UNC scrapes together five wins.

There's no better way to heal a struggling offense and develop rhythm than to play against an FCS team, especially one giving up 326 yards per game to opposing offenses.

Best message board tidbit on the game: A UNC poster started a thread titled "Paulus and Houston should start this week."  The poster claimed that since both were highly recruited it should be time to see what they can do.

I too question if the right people are starting on offense for UNC -- but not at quarterback.  Yates has shown the ability to make good decisions and lead a team in the fourth quarter -- when he has time to throw.  But Mike Paulus?  Not so much.  The last we saw of Paulus came against Miami when he was benched in favor of Cam Sexton.  Paulus struggled with three NFL receivers running down the field.  How do you think he'd do with zero?

I do, however, agree that Houston should start over Draughn.  Draughn benefited from the respect secondaries gave Hakeem Nicks in 2008, but stopping the run against UNC is much simpler now.  Give Houston most of the reps for a change and see if his bruising style can remedy the struggling offensive line.  He displayed flashes of brilliance against UConn and has an NFL body.

UNC will win if ... The offensive line manages to push around another FCS team.  The Heels rushed for 261 yards against The Citadel and gave Chapel Hill false hope about the success of the season.

If Yates and Erik Highsmith get reconnected, expect a game similar to the season opener -- and a plethora of "UNC's offense back on track" articles.

Georgia Southern will win if ... The same UNC team that lost to UVa shows up this Saturday.  The Eagles don't stand a chance against a top-10 defense on the road unless the Heels make several key mistakes.  A few interceptions tossed by Yates could keep Georgia Southern in position to knock off UNC.

What people are saying about the game: The quote of the week came from former Tar Heel tight end Deems May, who said this gem to Inside Carolina's Buck Sanders:

Then there are the ones that are the worst - the ones that say, "I don't care about football, I just go watch until basketball starts, we'll never be good at football, this is a basketball school, etc., etc." These are the types that I loathe. They are the cancers of the UNC program. They are the ones that inflict the most damage to the players’ psyche and hurt UNC’s recruiting more than anything. I went through this when UNC had back-to-back 1-10 seasons and you never get over it. The players from those days harbor ill feelings to this day and you can ask any of my teammates and they'll tell you the same thing. For those out there that feel this way, please don't ever speak to me or anybody associated with our football program -- keep your miserable pathetic thoughts to yourself.

Vegas line (4-1): None

My prediction (4-1): Georgia Southern runs a 3-3-5 defense, which could cause a bit of confusion considering UVa's unconventional defense terrorized the Heels.

The foreign defense combined with talented quarterback Lee Chapple is the Eagles' best hope for the upset.

It would be easy to expect another poor offensive performance, but Yates and the running backs will get back on track.  A few deep passes and an effective running game aided by another strong defensive performance will allow the Heels to pull away in the second half.

Expect UNC's Robert Quinn and the defensive line to feast upon the Eagles' passing attack.

UNC 34, Georgia Southern 10

NCAA Football 10 simulation score (3-2): UNC 38, Georgia Southern 17

UNC key performance:  Ryan Houston, 23 carries, 141 yards, three touchdowns

Georgia Southern key performance:  Lee Chapple, 211 passing yards, two touchdowns

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