5 things to watch for in UNC football vs Georgia State matchup

·5 min read

The North Carolina Tar Heels’ unblemished record is on the line this Saturday against Georgia State.

UNC has had a fruitful season start, with their offense clicking on all cylinders. This Saturday should look no different as they will travel to Atlanta to take on the 0-1 Panthers, a vital game for the team before their most challenging game on the schedule against Notre Dame in two weeks.

After escaping week two with a 63-61 win over Appalachian State, UNC will have a chance to work on their defense against a less offensive Panthers team. If North Carolina wants a shot against Notre Dame, they will need to fix their defense, making this week’s three match-up vital for the Tar Heels.

This game is the second time UNC will take on Georgia State in its program history, constraining the Panthers 59-17 last season. This game should have an identical outcome, with quarterback Drake Maye leading the charge for North Carolina.

Now with the narrative of cannot win on the road in the past, the only thing in UNC’s way of a dominating win is their shaky defense.

As UNC prepares to battle the Panthers, we look at five things to look out for in the Saturday matchup.

Can UNC's defense get off to a hot start?

Sep 3, 2022; Boone, North Carolina, USA; Appalachian State Mountaineers running back Nate Noel (5) makes a catch for a touchdown against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the first quarter at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The biggest threat to North Carolina winning games is their defense, or lack thereof. UNC has struggled significantly on defense this season, allowing Florida A&M to score 24 points and Appalachian 61. The biggest meltdown for UNC’s defense came last weekend when they gave up six touchdowns for 40 points in the fourth quarter alone.

Not wrapping up tackles, broken coverages, and penalties wreaked havoc on North Carolina’s defense against Appalachian, causing that meltdown. In two games, UNC has allowed an average of 320 passing yards, four passing touchdowns, and 172 rushing yards.

Georgia State is a run-first team, with 40 attempts in their first game and 29 passing attempts. Staying aggressive in attacking the run should contain the Panthers and give UNC their best defensive performance.

Who steps up next?

Sep 3, 2022; Boone, North Carolina, USA; Appalachian State Mountaineers defensive back Ronald Clarke (27) misses the tackle as North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver J.J. Jones (5) runs in for the touchdown after the catch during the first quarter at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

A season where the biggest headline could have been injuries has been overshadowed with young players stepping up to the plate. Another game where UNC will have to count on newer talent has the question of who is next to break out.

Last weekend we saw redshirt freshman Kobe Paysour knock it out of the park as the wide receiver caught his first touchdown pass in his Tar Heel career and tacked 92 yards on eight catches. Sophomore wide receiver J.J Jones also caught his first touchdown in his UNC career, with 69 yards on four catches.

Josh Downs status is still in the air, and with Antoine Green out, these two wideouts may be in for another big day.

Who leads the work load ?

Sep 3, 2022; Boone, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels running back George Pettaway (23) runs for yardage chased by Appalachian State Mountaineers defensive back Ronald Clarke (27) during the second half at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

When it was announced that running back British Brooks would be sidelined this year due to injury, UNC had to figure out who would be the lead back.

North Carolina has done an excellent job mixing up the workload, with freshman’s Omarion Hampton and George Pettaway leading the group in week one. In week two, it was the Caleb Hood show as the sophomore led the halfbacks in rushing yards with 87 on six attempts. Hampton struggled a bit, rushing for 17 yards on the team-led eight carries.

Expect UNC to mix it up again, but the workload horse should come down to Hood and Pettaway as the goto running back.

Does Phil Longo's masterclass continue?

Sep 3, 2022; Boone, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels offensive lineman William Barnes (76) pats running back Omarion Hampton (28) on the helmet after his score against the Appalachian State Mountaineers during the second half at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive coordinator Longo has called two great games for UNC’s offense despite having missing pieces all over.

Not only acting as the OC but also as the quarterbacks’ coach, no one on the coaching staff deserve more credit than Longo. North Carolina is averaging a balanced attack on offense with 37 passing attempts and 37 rushing tries per game through two games.

The passing game has averaged 323 yards and four touchdowns per game, and the rushing attack has been equally impressive, with 264 yards and three touchdowns on average. North Carolina is currently ranked sixth, scoring 59.5 points per game.

This game should continue the trend of putting up numbers on the offense, with Georgia State allowing 306 total yards in their week one loss against South Carolina.

Can Drake Maye continue to make a name as a Heisman candidate?

Sep 3, 2022; Boone, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) leaps for the end zone tripped up by Appalachian State Mountaineers defensive back Nick Ross (4) during the second half at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Maye has been everything and more that UNC fans have hoped for.

The quarterback has picked up right where Sam Howell left off, impressing with his arm and feet. Maye has completed 53 of 73 passes for 646 yards and nine passing touchdowns. He also has 131 rushing yards, including a rushing touchdown.

Maye has been hot off the gate, an important reason UNC has been able to start the season 2-0. He did have one fumble last weekend. However, despite that hiccup, Maye has controlled the ball, with that being his only turnover.

The freshman should see similar success against Georgia State’s defense, adding to an already impressive season start.

Story originally appeared on Tarheels Wire