Thursday NCAA Preview: No. 14 Georgia Tech at No. 20 Miami
by Alan Matthews - 9/15/2009
It's only the third week of the college football season, but Thursday night's ESPN game between Georgia Tech (2-0) and Miami (1-0) is key in the ACC's Coastal Division.
The Hurricanes, who are 4.5-point favorites on JustBet, are in the midst of the toughest opening four-game stretch in college football this season. UM went up to Tallahassee and upset Florida State last Monday, and they follow this game with tough matchups against Virginia Tech and Oklahoma. That's four ranked teams and four conference contenders in four weeks for Randy Shannon's club. Thus a win here guarantees Miami not only at worst a 2-2 start but gets it to 2-0 in the conference and a potential tiebreaker with the Yellow Jackets.
Georgia Tech, which has won four in a row against UM, looked uneven in its opener and then beat Clemson, 30-27, in Atlanta last Thursday. But not all was well with that victory. The Jackets led 24-0 but let Clemson come all the way back and take a 27-24 lead. Plus, Tech QB Josh Nesbitt completed just 3-of-14 passes, and that isn't going to cut it against Miami, which is better rounded than Clemson.
Because of Nesbitt's struggles, Miami might put 10 guys in the box. That's because the Canes were gashed for 472 rushing yards by Georgia Tech in a 41-23 victory last year; that was the second-most yards on the ground UM has ever allowed. Certainly having seen the triple-option once before and having a few extra days to prepare this time should benefit the Hurricanes.
While Tech, led by Jonathan Dwyer, leads the ACC with 318 rushing yards per game, Miami's defense limited Florida State to 110 yards on the ground despite also getting pounded by the ground game by FSU last year. Plus, the Canes should get back one of their top defensive linemen, Eric Moncur, after he missed the opener with an injury. Safety Vaughn Telemaque and cornerback Ryan Hill also are expected to play after missing the Seminoles game.
Shannon says the biggest factor is Dwyer and limiting his big plays. The reigning ACC Player of the Year had a 74-yard TD run in the opener and a 58-yard scoring scamper last year against Miami.
"If he happens to get into the open field, we have to get him down for a 10 or 12 yard gain and then line up again," Shannon said.
Another possible advantage for UM is that it will be playing just its second game of the season and off 10 days rest, while Georgia Tech will be playing its third game in 13 days.
In addition, UM quarterback Jacory Harris looks like a different player than the kid who split time with Robert Marve last year. He had 386 yards passing and two touchdowns against FSU, along with nine pass plays of at least 20 yards. And the Canes have another Devin Hester-type all-around threat in Travis Benjamin, who caught four passes for 128 yards and one touchdown. However, the ground game wasn't effective against FSU.
Miami wins this one by a touchdown.
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