Georgia and North Carolina both have unknowns to prepare for.
The Tar Heels are facing a team with a new coaching staff in place from a season ago. It’s forced North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora to seek film from other schools to get a better feel as for what the Bulldogs may do, specifically on offense, in Saturday’s Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome.
Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has had a great deal of success in his career, dating back to his days under Joe Tiller at Purdue. In recent years, after an NFL stint with the St. Louis Rams, Chaney led the offenses at Tennessee, Arkansas and Pittsburgh.
During the offseason, Fedora studied tape on each of the three previous schools Chaney was at.
"I broke down all three teams in every film we could find," Fedora said. "In an opening game like this, one thing (defensive coordinator) Gene (Chizik) and I talked about, and (offensive coordinator Chris Kapilovic), is that you have to be careful because you start chasing ghosts. And you ‘what if’ yourself to death on all the things that could happen on either side of the ball."
Fedora’s Tar Heels did have some familiarity against Chaney last season in beating Pittsburgh 26-19. The Panthers, under Chaney’s guidance, did gain 415 yards but started the game a tad too slow on the scoreboard.
But Georgia’s a different program with different personnel, which Fedora is mindful of. And while there’s a lot of film on Georgia starting quarterback Greyson Lambert, there’s none on talented freshman Jacob Eason, who could also see time at the position Saturday.
"Your worst nightmare is not having your guys prepared for something," Fedora said. "That’s your worst nightmare. I think we’ve done that but at the same time, I think we’ve kept our game plans short and concise so our guys can play fast and not have to think."
Conversely, while Georgia is well aware of what running back Elijah Hood and receiver Ryan Switzer offer as offensive weapons, it’s has had limited tape to study North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
Trubisky did appear in nine games last season, which usually came during blowouts. He had a great game statistically against Delaware, accounting for 312 yards and 4 touchdowns on 17-of-20 passing.
By the looks of it, Trubisky could pick up where North Carolina than 2015 starter Marquise Williams left off, based on what outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter said. Trubisky is a dual-threat quarterback who can make plays in both the running and passing games.
But there’s still an element of surprise waiting since Georgia isn’t sure what to fully expect with Trubisky starting his first college football game.
"Well, he’s gotten a little bit of playing time before. We just have to watch that," Carter said. "He does a lot of things well. He can run around, he can throw the ball. It’s really just about us making sure we do what we gotta do to contain him."
While Trubisky provides an element of surprise, the North Carolina offense figures to run exactly how it did a season ago, at least in its basic form.
What worries head coach Kirby Smart is the fact that the Tar Heels were rarely punting the ball, which was observed when trying to study their punt coverage team. If North Carolina isn’t punting much, the offense is probably scoring a lot.
And that’s what happened in 2016, when North Carolina accounted for an average of 40.7 points per game.
"They don't have many punts on record," Smart said. "So it's not ever a real good feeling as a defensive coordinator, guy on the defensive side of the ball, because they go uptempo. They go fast. We know they're going to go fast. They know they're going to go fast. So it's their M.O.; it's what they want to do, and they feel like they're at their best when they go fast. So it's a big part of the game, and it's a big adjustment for us because we don't see that every day. So obviously Coach (Mel) Tucker has got his hands full as well as the rest of the team."