The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (3-1, 2-1 ACC) took a mini-step back in their tough 17-10 loss to the Virginia Tech Hokies last week, but they have a huge opportunity for redemption when they visit SunLife Stadium to take on the No.14 Miami Hurricanes (4-0, 0-0 ACC) on Saturday.
Georgia Tech has lost four straight in the series against Miami by an average of 16.0 points, with last season’s 42-36 overtime game being the closest Tech has come to getting past the Hurricanes.
This game will pit strength against strength, as the Hurricanes are boasting a 45.3 points per game average (good for 10th in the nation), while the Jackets bring one of the stingiest defenses in the country to Miami, only allowing 12.8 points per game. The question is, can Miami keep that kind of offensive production going against a quality ACC opponent?
The answer to that is yet unknown, as the game against the Jackets will be the ACC opener for the ‘Canes, and three of their first four games have come against much lesser opponents. Miami was able to squeak out a win over Florida in week two, but they were only able to manage 21 points against the stout Gator defense.
The Yellow Jackets on the other hand, have already played three conference games, winning two of them–Duke and North Carolina–so they are a much more battle-tested team than Miami. We may not know exactly who the Hurricanes are yet, but it’s obvious that the Yellow Jackets are a team that will rely on defense and ball control to win games this season.
Miami’s win over Florida is also a bit deceiving. The ‘Canes were outplayed by the Gators in nearly every facet of the game, but Florida’s five turnovers–three fumbles and two interceptions–were the difference in the 21-16 score. Tech’s defense is showing to be every bit as good as Florida’s this season, so if the Jackets can win the turnover battle, and keep mistakes to a minimum, they should be able to hand the Hurricanes their first loss of the season.
For the Jackets to do that however, they’ll need to get quarterback Vad Lee and their triple-option attack going at peak performance level, which to this point of the season hasn’t be clicking the way it should. Even head coach Paul Johnson admits that the staple of the Yellow Jackets’ attack has been a challenge to get going this year.
“It’s been coming,” Johnson said of his team’s inability to move the ball against Virginia Tech last week. “I’ve told you all along we’re not very good with the option. We’re terrible, in fact, and it showed. We’re not going to throw the ball 24 times and win very many games. That’s not us. We’ve got to be able to run the ball … and we didn’t do it.”
Without the threat of the option, Georgia Tech doesn’t have a lot to hang their hats on offensively, and that will play right into Miami’s hands.
For the Jackets to ground the ‘Canes offense and notch their first win in five years in the series, they’ll have to control time of possession and win the turnover battle. With Miami’s opportunistic defense, both of those keys may be tough to do.