Another Coastal Division crown was alluded; the Canes on the outside looking in for the twelfth-consecutive season regards the ACC Championship game. A head coach has been fired, while an interim leader tries to keep things from completely bottoming out.
Not an easy task on the heels of North Carolina dropping 59 points on Miami last weekend.
All the rah-rah after wins over Duke and Virginia; long gone after that reality check in Chapel Hill. Try as Larry Scott might, it’s going to take more than some motivational tactics to wash off the five-year cultural impact Al Golden had on this Hurricanes program.
The search for a new coach rolls on—a committee formed, a search firm on the case and rumors galore regarding which direction this thing will ultimately go. Meanwhile, Miami’s shift towards become a basketball school presses on courtesy of two big signings this week and a some dominant on-the-court play.
Lost in the shuffle; the fact the Hurricanes face Georgia Tech this week and a shoddy Miami defense has to prepare for a triple option that has brought trouble in the past.
The Yellow Jackets are not a good football team—dropping seven of their past eight; their lone win a miracle blocked field goal and return against Florida State. Losses against Notre Dame, Duke, North Carolina, Clemson and even Pittsburgh all make sense, but Georgia Tech dropped back-to-back games against lowly Virginia and Virginia Tech after the upset of the Seminoles.
Then again, suspect as the Cavaliers and Hokies have been this season, both programs are fundamentally sound and disciplined on defense—which is the ultimate key in containing the Yellow Jackets’ quirky offense.
And here in lies Miami’s challenge come Saturday, high noon at Sun Life Stadium—playing fundamentally-sound football; especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Bad as Georgia Tech’s three-win season has gone, the Yellow Jackets still rank seventh in the nation, rushing for 257 yards-per-game—while Miami’s defense is averaging over 200-plus yards on the ground on to the opposition.
The Canes are also an undisciplined mess penalties-wise; with 96 flags thrown this season—the most in the national until Bowling Green was hit with their 97th penalty days back in a loss to Toledo. Conversely, Georgia Tech has only been flagged 35 times this season—second-best in the nation.
Last year’s home win for the Rambling Wreck was the result of ball control and keeping Miami’s offense off the field. Georgia Tech owned the time of possession battle 40:45 to the Canes’ 19:15, while rushing for 318 yards in the 28-17 victory.
Justin Thomas was a mere 4-of-7 passing, but always seemed to hit Miami where it hurt. A nine-yard completion on 3rd-and-7 kept the opening drive of the third quarter alive, leading to an eventual touchdown. On the opening play of the fourth quarter, Thomas completed a 30-yard pass on 3rd-and-16, pulling ahead by 11.
Tech no longer has fullback Zach Laskey, who rushed a season-high 29 times for 133 yards as a senior in last year’s win. Marcus Marshall and Marcus Allen should carry the load this year, while Thomas will continue calling his own number—rushing 133 times for 472 yards and six touchdowns on the season.
Ricky Jeune leads all Yellow Jackets’ receivers with 21 receptions for 480 yards and three touchdowns. Clinton Lynch and Michael Summers are also go-to options when Tech decides to pass.
Defensively linebacker P.J. Davis will create some havoc, while cornerback D.J. White and safety Jamal Golden can keep the passing attack in check. Golden has been injured, which could provide match-up problems should Brad Kaaya and the Canes’ receivers choose to exploit that.
All this chatter aside, this year’s edition of Miami hosting Georgia Tech seems to have disaster written all over it—based on recent history and the Canes’ checking out.
Scott did a yeoman’s job getting UM geared up for a road game at Duke, saw his team hang in there against Virginia and watched his crew self-implode at North Carolina—boneheaded penalties and a lack of focus and discipline defining the beat down.
Last year this squad went into the tank after blowing a lead against Florida State—losing to a bad Virginia squad, an average Pittsburgh team and dropping a bowl game to sub par South Carolina.
Adrenaline seemed to carry the Canes in that win over the Blue Devils, but a less than spirited outing against the Cavaliers had Miami needing to recover an onside kick in the final minutes to hang tough. Regarding those Tar Heels?
A men-against-the-boys outing almost on par with that Clemson ass-kicking that cost Golden his job.
Miami will take the field for Senior Day this weekend and it’ll be a similar scene to those that have played out in recent years. Empty stadium and little energy on and off the field, as this is a four-loss team that will be playing for nothing more than pride—and a “better” bowl game. Nothing is on the line and all the rah-rah in the world won’t change that.
On the other side of the field, Georgia Tech won’t reach the post-season—so it’s all about treating games against Miami and Georgia as spoiler moments. The Yellow Jackets may be 3-7, but have lost four one-possession games this season—while certainly rising to the occasion in an upset of Florida State.
Saturday will be one step closer to Miami’s putting this season out of its misery. The Canes’ offense should score some points, but offensive line issues will persist, the ground attack will be sporadic, the passing game will be hit or miss, and it’s hard to trust that Miami will clean up its act regarding penalties.
Emotions are at an all-time high and when the going gets tough, hard not to expect guys to lash out and for more unsportsmanlike calls and personal fouls to be in the mix.
Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech will again attempt to control the clock—banking on a porous Miami defense to make mistakes. The result will again be a Canes’ offense that needs to make minimal reps count, which hasn’t been the case this year.
The Yellow Jackets may be a three-win mess this year, but are still a well-coached bunch, whereas the Canes have seemingly unraveled and struggle when the going gets tough.
Should be a back and forth type game until late, where the Yellow Jackets convert late—a big run or clutch pass from Thomas—setting up the pull-away final score.
The Prediction — Georgia Tech 31, Miami 23