Miami Season So Far
Despite the 3-0 start, many are still wondering if Miami is for real due to their fairly cupcake schedule so far. Over the first three weeks, the Hurricanes have beaten up on Florida A&M (0-4 FCS), Florida Atlantic (1-3), and Appalachian State (2-2). Those three wins have been the product of the nations #6 ranked offense (51 points per game) and the nations #1 ranked defense (7.7 points per game allowed). Are those stats representative of the Hurricanes actual ability or merely a mirage of a weak schedule? When the Hurricanes travel to Atlanta on Saturday, we will certainly learn a lot more about them, as they dive into conference play.
Offseason Preview (link)
Who’s gone? HC Al Golden, WR Rashawn Scott & Herb Waters, DL Ufomba Kamalu & Calvin Heurtelou, S Deon Bush, and LB Tyriq McCord.
Who’s back? QB Brad Kaaya, RB Joseph Yearby & Mark Malton, WR Stacey Coley, DL Al-Quadin Muhammad (dismissed), LB Jermaine Grace (dismissed)
Who’s new? HC Mark Richt
The two most important people on these lists may not actually be players, but instead coaches. After firing Al Golden midseason, former georgia head coach Mark Richt left the Peach State for his alma mater, where he played QB from 1979-1982. Over his career, Richt has dominated the Jackets.
Quarterback Brad Kaaya, considered one of the top quarterbacks in the country, returns to Miami for his Junior season after compiling 6,500 yards and 42 touchdowns over his first two seasons.
Al-Quadin Muhammad and Jermaine Grace were supposed to be critical pieces of the Hurricanes defense this year, but one week before the season opener, both players were dismissed.
Recent history has not fared well for the Yellow Jackets when facing Miami. The Jackets have fared even worse against the Hurricanes new head coach, Mark Richt. Miami has won six of the last seven meetings, with the lone exception coming during the magical 2014 season. Meanwhile, Richt has gone 13-2 against the Jackets as a head coach (21-2 overall), including winning six of eight against Paul Johnson. Let’s hope Saturday turns out like 2014, when the Jackets beat both Miami and Mark Richt (georgia).
Both teams will have some extra rest for this one, as Miami comes off a bye week and Georgia Tech comes off of a Thursday night game. For the Hurricanes, that means more time to prepare for the unique triple option offense. For the Jackets, that means more time to improve upon the numerous missed assignments from last week’s game against Clemson.
For the second week in a row, a big key to the Jacket’s defensive game plan will be stopping the opposing QB. After facing a Heisman candidate in Deshaun Watson last week, Tech now gets to face another one of the ACC’s elite in Brad Kaaya. Although both quarterbacks are among the best in the country, the game plan will certainly be different on Saturday because Kaaya is not nearly as mobile as Watson. For reference, Watson had over 1,000 rushing yards last season while Kaaya has -263 yards in his whole career (sacks count as rushing plays in college football). The Jackets secondary will need to play their best game of the year and the defensive line will have to get pressure to the quarterback. If not, Kaaya will almost certainly pick apart the defense.
Offensively, Tech has to execute better than they did last week. In what ended up being the lowest yardage output in the Paul Johnson era, the Clemson defenders had free paths into the backfield all night thanks to countless missed assignments. This week, Johnson said he has focused almost entirely on the offense, even taking the lead where his assistants usually would. Hopefully the offense can return back to the nearly flawless execution that it had against Vanderbilt.
The Jackets will need to take advantage of the dismissal of DL Al-Quadin Muhammad and LB Jermaine Grace from the Hurricanes program. Having a disciplined and skilled front seven is a critical component to stopping the triple option and the Jackets will need to expose these players replacements. Thus far, the Hurricanes opponents have yet to do so.
An already thin and struggling offensive line will look even thinner on Saturday. OT Trey Klock is out with an injury and OG Shamire Devine is listed as questionable. Additionally, starting cornerback Step Durham is listed as doubtful.
With so many questions marks, this game is nearly impossible to predict. Miami has looked great, but they have yet to play a real opponent. The Jackets were just embarrassed on national television, but they played a team that is a very real national title contender. Just a week earlier, the Tech offense looked like it couldn’t be stopped. Vegas has the Hurricanes as an eight point favorite, but I expect the game to remain within a touchdown in what is a critical game for the coastal division. Although Mark Richt “has the Jackets number”, I don’t think this Miami team is nearly as talented as the majority of his teams in Athens and the loss of Muhammad and Grace are a big hit to the defense. In the end, home field advantage ends up making the difference for me and maybe Miami looks ahead to Florida State next weekend? Jackets win 28-24.