Larry Fedora came ready with his answer, as if he expected the question: Would North Carolina’s game against Delaware this weekend afford him and his coaching staff an opportunity to look ahead one week to the Tar Heels’ game against Georgia Tech?
“You can look across the landscape of college football,” Fedora said on Monday during his weekly press conference. “Any team can beat you on any Saturday. There’s great examples this past weekend of really good football teams that struggled against somebody.”
He’s not wrong. See: Auburn and Jacksonville State the weekend before last. Ohio State struggled on Saturday to defeat Northern Illinois. So, yes, the clichés the coach speak are what they are – to use another terrible cliché – for a reason.
Still, UNC this weekend plays Delaware, an opponent from the Football Championship Subdivision. And next week the Tar Heels go on the road to play against Georgia Tech, which is the favorite in the ACC’s Coastal Division.
So why wouldn’t UNC look ahead to the Yellow Jackets? Turns out the Tar Heels have been – and for a while. When the ACC released the schedule and Fedora saw that the Georgia Tech game fell in the first half of the season, he put in a plan to work on the Yellow Jackets little by little, week by week.
Not so much because Georgia Tech is that good – though it did win the Coastal last season. But more because of the uniqueness of the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense, which is a rarity in major college football.
“You’ve got three days to prepare in that short week so we want to be able to do something weekly,” Fedora said, “but do it when it’s not going to take away from the team we’re preparing for.”
UNC during the preseason spent some time preparing for Georgia Tech, Fedora said. The coaching staff, too, has dedicated time every Sunday – the day the Tar Heels review their mistakes from the previous game – to preparing for the Yellow Jackets.
Not a lot of time. Fedora said UNC on Sundays has spent one practice period practicing for what they might see against the Yellow Jackets. But it’s something, at least. And it’s something that UNC doesn’t do for any other opponent.
“We did it throughout camp,” Fedora said of prepping for the Yellow Jackets. “And then on Sundays we’ve done it every Sunday, there’s a period built in where we’ve done that.”
If the Georgia Tech game was later in the season, Fedora said, UNC probably wouldn’t be devoting this kind of time to it. But it’s the Tar Heels’ fifth game, their conference opener and one of their most important games of the season.
UNC hasn’t began early preparations for any other opponent. The Tar Heels’ game at Georgia Tech, where UNC hasn’t won since 1997, is different, though.
“We’re very detailed and we’re dialed into Delaware,” Des Lawrence, the junior cornerback, said on Monday. “But what (the coaches) do stress to us is that with (Georgia Tech’s) offense, it’s so explosive that you can’t really prepare for it in three days, like you can for a regular team.
“So what we do is a little bit on correction days we go over some of the offense and then any time that we really have we’re just really looking over what they do.”
The hope is that by the time Georgia Tech week comes around – which will be next week – the Tar Heels are ready to get ready for one of their most formidable challenges of the season.