The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets have had one of the nation's most powerful rushing attacks since head coach Paul Johnson joined the team before the 2008 season, but over the last three years, the school has not been able to translate that into a win against the Miami Hurricanes. The Canes will look to make it four in a row against Georgia Tech and move to 2-0 in ACC play on Saturday in Atlanta.
"This is a complete team," UM head coach Al Golden said earlier this week. "Very experienced, mature team." Georgia Tech will fall to 1-2 in ACC play with a loss, so the Yellow Jackets will be playing with a sense of urgency on Saturday.
When the Canes have the ball: After three games, the Canes' offense can best be described as the Duke Johnson show. The true freshman running back is already being compared to past UM greats like Clinton Portis and Frank Gore, and for good reason. He has 638 all-purpose yards and is averaging over 9 yards a carry and has 6 touchdowns (4 rushing, 1 receiving, and 1 on special teams) in 3 games.
But the Canes' lackluster passing game could get a lift from the return of WR Allen Hurns, who missed last week due to concussion-like symptoms. Georgia Tech is stout on run defense, giving up only 3.6 yards per carry. Forcing the defense to respect QB Stephen Morris and the passing game will open up more rushing lanes for Johnson and RB Mike James.
"They're a big, strong, physical group," Golden said of Georgia Tech's defense. They excel at overpowering the line of scrimmage, as 11 different Yellow Jackets have recorded tackles for loss this season.
When the Yellow Jackets have the ball: Miami gives up 200 yards a game on the ground, a stat which doubtless has Golden concerned. Georgia Tech is one of the few schools in the nation that runs the option, and its triple-option attack gives plenty of teams fits. QB Tevin Washington is averaging 6.5 yards a carry, and can kill a defense with his arm as well, averaging 11.2 yards per pass attempt.
Georgia Tech's offense is a pick-your-poison juggernaut. Three Yellow Jackets have topped the century mark in a game this season, and eight have scored rushing touchdowns. 14 of Georgia Tech's 18 touchdowns have come on the ground.
"We're going to be tested," Golden said. "They're the best at what they do in the country." Miami will be without starting LB Denzel Perryman and DT Curtis Porter, making the test even more difficult. Because the option relies on misdirection and forces defenders to overpursue, young defense's like Miami's are exceptionally prone to giving up big plays.
Who has the edge? In past season, the Canes have been able to stop Georgia Tech (or at least contain the Yellow Jackets), but Miami's youth on defense suggests this could be the year that streak stops. On offense, the Canes will have to prove they can complete some deep passes, or else Georgia Tech will stack the box in order to stifle the run. The odds seem stacked against the Canes this week.
The Pick: Georgia Tech 34-Miami 14
Kickoff is at 3:00 on Sun Sports.