Thursday Night Football: Miami at Georgia Tech
by Matt Severance - 11/19/2008
It appears that Coach Randy Shannon does have the University of Miami back on the right track, but the young, talented Canes have one more big step to take in hopes of reaching the school's first Atlantic Coast Conference title game.
That step comes on Thursday night, when the No. 23 Hurricanes (7-3, 4-2 ACC), winners of five in a row and ranked for the first time in two years, face Coastal Division foe Georgia Tech (7-3, 4-3).
Despite the Jackets having lost two of their past three games, they are 3.5-point favorites on SuperBook.
Miami leads the Coastal by a half-game over Georgia Tech and one game over three other teams. UM can clinch the division with a win and a North Carolina loss to North Carolina State on Saturday, or with a victory and a Virginia win over Clemson and a Virginia Tech win over Duke. Georgia Tech is out of the division race with a loss.
However, the Jackets have owned this series of late, winning three straight. Only six schools since 1927, however, have beaten Miami four straight years.
But while Miami is undoubtedly more talented than it has been for at least a few years, Georgia Tech might have an advantage in its offensive scheme, the triple option. That's because UM hasn't faced a Division I-A power option team since Arkansas in 1991.
"There's no science to [preparing for] it," coach Randy Shannon said. "You have to have everybody chasing the football. If you don't, you're going to have a tough time."
Georgia Tech ranks second in the ACC with 358.2 yards per game and eighth in the nation with 250.7 rushing yards. Running back Jonathan Dwyer leads the way with 1,056 yards, while QB Josh Nesbitt (only 48 percent passing) is second with 498 yards and six TDs. Nesbitt, incidentally, has been bothered by an ankle injury but has practiced this week and is likely to start. Backup Jaybo Shaw has a leg injury, but he's apparently good to go as well if needed.
"We think we're going to have Josh, so we should have both of them ready for the game," Tech coach Paul Johnson said.
The Jackets will be facing a defense that might be the best in the conference. UM is holding opponents to a 283.2 total ypg, with only 106.6 per game coming via the ground. Last Thursday in beating Virginia Tech, Miami held the Hokies to 77 yards rushing and had six sacks.
On offense, Miami averages just over 28 points despite the fact that it seems each of its two freshmen quarterbacks, Robert Marve and Jacory Harris, rotate good weeks with bad weeks to go along with their rotating playing time.
The Hurricanes are averaging 133.4 ypg on the ground and another 181.2 ypg through the air, with an even split between their 30 total touchdowns. But oftentimes it's the defense putting the offense on a short field.
There is very good news for Miami on offense as top lineman Jason Fox, who missed the Virginia Tech game, is expected to play Thursday. In addition, return man Travis Benjamin, a true game-breaker, is probable after leaving the Hokies' game with an injury.
Georgia Tech's defense is good, ranking 12th in scoring defense (allowing 16.1 points a game) and 16th in total defense. But it has wilted some lately, allowing 24, 28 and 28 points in the past three - thus those two losses.
The over/under for the game is 40.5 on SuperBook.
Meanwhile, no ACC team has played on Thursday nights more than Georgia Tech, which is 9-11 all-time. But Miami is the best Thursday night team in the land at 13-1, including last week's win.
The weather in Atlanta calls for temperatures in just the 30s on Thursday, but the warm-weather Canes don't seem to care much.
"As soon as you get into the game, that stuff starts going away," Miami linebacker Glenn Cook said. "You can't really fight nature."
Bet on Miami-Georgia Tech at SuperBook.