Two teams looking to go 2-0 in the ACC and gain the top spot in the Coastal Division meet Thursday night in Miami as Georgia Tech travels to South Florida to face the Hurricanes.
Last Meeting: GT 41 Miami 23 GT -3 Atlanta, GA
The Yellow Jackets racked up over 500 yards of total offense, including 472 on the ground on a cold Thursday night last November. The game was not as close as the score indicated with Miami getting a late TD pass from Jacory Harris with under two minutes remaining against Tech backups.
GT outgained Miami by 130 total yards and won the turnover battle 2-1. Current Miami starter Harris split time with former starter Robert Marve; Harris was 13-of-18 with two TDs and one INT. Miami allowed 8.4 ypc in the loss.
Keys To The Game
1. Run Defense
That may sound silly considering GT is very likely to have more yards rushing than Miami, but Clemson found a way to slow Tech's offense in the second and third quarter last week and the Hurricanes need to do the same. They aren't going to stop it and force Ga Tech to pass, but if they can limit the big plays, they have a great chance to win.
Conversely, Georgia Tech would like to make Miami one-dimensional. Miami is 6-2 when Graig Cooper and Javarris James have 25 rush attempts and 4-9 when they do not. Although the 'Canes were not overly successful running the ball against FSU (90 yds on 30 attempts), they were able to do it enough to keep the FSU defense off balance.
GT is averaging 6.4 yards per rush (ypr) versus Miami allowing 3.0 ypr this season; something has to give here.
In the Hurricanes six losses last season, they were -7 in turnover margin, including one against GT that scored a defensive TD. Although Harris showed a lot of poise in the pocket vs FSU, he did throw two picks.
Georgia Tech so far in 2009 has put the ball on the ground five times and lost it three. They also had two picks in the Clemson game. The Yellow Jackets were -9 in turnovers in their four losses last year.
With the talent and coaching on both sides very even, turnovers could be the difference maker.
3. Play Makers
Both of these teams have some of the best play makers in the ACC. Miami is very deep at wideout with Travis Benjamin, Leonard Hankerson, and Aldarius Johnson leading the way. Both Cooper and James have big play ability running the ball and James showed some good vision last week on pass plays.
Ga Tech will counter with a trio of backs—Jonathan Dwyer (ACC POY 2008), Anthony Allen, and Roddy Jones, along with preseason first team WR Demaryius Thomas.
Both teams have big play ability and I expect several big-yardage, scoring plays on Thursday night. The team that can land more of them or limit the other team forces the other's offense to grind out drives where neither team has been great this season.
ESPN could not have asked for a better game on a Thursday night. Some big things are swinging in Miami's favor for this game though. They have had 10 days off since FSU, while GT is playing in their third game in 13 days. This could be big down the stretch. It is very tough to win back-to-back Thursday games, especially when the second one is on the road; VT lost at Miami in their second and in turn Miami lost at GT last year.
Harris looks much improved over last season and showed a confidence in the pocket we have not seen since Ken Dorsey was in Coral Gables. He has plenty of play makers to get the ball to under new OC Mark Whipple. Meanwhile, GT's offense is sputtering a little early in the season compared to late last year.
The line in this one made a big jump from MIA -4 to -5.5 this week, which says a lot of people are betting the Hurricanes. I like Miami for the win but I will head the other way with GT covering in a offensive showcase full of big plays.
Miami 31 Georgia Tech 27
Ga Tech Covers -5.5