After the Jackets close out September with their ACC opener in Blacksburg against VPI, they have an off week before their ACC home opener against perhaps their fiercest divisional rival. The Miami Hurricanes come to town Saturday, October 4, to renew another series that hasn't gone too well for the good guys in recent years. Georgia Tech
beat smoked Miami (lol) on a Thursday night back in Paul Johnson's first try in 2008. Since then, the Jackets have lost a resounding five straight. (Not-so-fun fact: aside from uga, Miami was the only annual opponent that we never beat the entire time I was in college.) The last two have been particularly painful, two years ago coming in overtime after Tech lost a lead at the very end of regulation, and last year coming in Miami after the Yellow Jackets jumped out to a 17-7 first quarter lead, before Miami finished the game on a 38-13 run to win 45-30. This year, Al Golden looks to extend his undefeated streak against CPJ's forces.
As you read in the opponent preview article, Miami is just another team on Georgia Tech's schedule that will be replacing its quarterback after Stephen Morris graduated. However, what you may not know is that they could actually replacing two more quarterbacks as well. The heir apparent to the QB spot was thought (and even said by Golden) to be Ryan Williams, but his season was ended mid-spring with a tear to his ACL. Then, new new starter Kevin Olsen was suspended for "at least one game" a little over a week ago due to a failed drug test. As it stands, Miami is set to start the season with 23-year-old BYU-to-Kansas-to-Miami transfer Jake Heaps at quarterback, although Olsen is likely to be back by early October, one would have to think. Outside of uncertainty at the quarterback position, the Hurricanes will be required to replace their top WR, two starting OL, and a contributing RB that was moved to safety in Dallas Crawford. All that considered though, the offense looks nasty any time Duke Johnson is in the backfield after he's given Tech fits in his first two years. Stopping him will be the key to keeping the Miami offense in check.
On defense, Miami replaces four major players on the defensive line, two linebackers, and a safety that started wire-to-wire last year. Clearly, they're going to need some new guys to step up on that side of the ball. LB Denzel Perryman still roams in the Miami front 7, and as always will be a handful to take on. Likewise, DE Anthony Chickillo has the potential to wreck any offense he comes into contact with. If by some miracle Virginia Poly didn't push Georgia Tech's offensive line to its max, Miami is sure to with a lot of talent in the front 7. The O-Line and A-Back blocking will be as crucial a factor to scoring in this game as it will in any game all year.
There is one interesting point to this, though. Last year, Georgia Tech ranked 85th nationally in passing defense. Miami was actually worse than that, and on top of that will be replacing pieces in the secondary. There's a chance that Georgia Tech's passing offense will play a considerable role in this game as the Yellow Jackets look to attack the weaker point of the Miami defense.
These two teams flat-out do not like each other, and I think their respective fan bases feel similar sentiments. This game will be a major test for Georgia Tech as it enters the middle stretch of its schedule, where it plays 7 straight weeks against ACC teams -- beginning with Miami, and ending with Clemson. Frankly, I don't like this matchup and never really have. Miami has a lot of issues with discipline and fundamentals, but they're able to make up for that a lot of times with a lot of talent all over the field. That, not to mention that we'll be likely removing a linebacker from the field for most of the game, while still trying to stop a nationally Top-5 RB (that has historically succeeded against Georgia Tech) in Duke Johnson. Having the home field advantage will be nice, as will the rested bodies following a bye week, complementing the momentum I expect the Jackets will have coming in at 4-0. As for what happens in this game though, it's anybody's guess. Georgia Tech is fully capable of beating Miami if Duke Johnson is neutralized, but that onus will be on the defense to see to it that Miami's offense is kept in check. The offense will need to remain patient -- big plays are tough against a talented defense like Miami's, but success can be had in this offense given the defense's struggles with discipline.
This will be a hard-fought game at Bobby Dodd, where it's never smart to bet against the Yellow Jackets. How it turns out though? I have no idea.
What are your thoughts on this game? Does Georgia Tech break the streak against Miami after a bye week? Where is the key to this game?