2011: 6-1 (3-1)
Last week's game: In an outcome that some saw coming, the undefeated Yellow Jackets fell in Charlottesville to Virginia. Teams with more than a week to prepare for Tech's option have been extremely successful against the Jackets (remember Miami's Thursday night beatdown of GT in 2009?), and the trend held in place last Saturday. With 272 yards rushing, the Cavs were able to equal the total that Tech put up, and Paul Johnson teams aren't going to win many games when that happens. Quarterback Tevin Washington only added 24 yards through the air— on two completions— which resulted in easily the worst offensive performance from GT this year.
Last year's meeting: Miami 35 Georgia Tech 10 This was probably Miami's best overall performance of the 2010 season. The Canes put up over 500 yards of offense— led by Leonard Hankerson's 132 yards receiving on three receptions— and the defense, facing Washington in what was the first start of his career, was able to keep Tech from turning yards into points. Tech was able to rip off over 300 yards rushing, but the Canes countered with 277 of their own, including three guys (Lamar MIller, Damien Berry and Mike James) who rushed for over 60 yards.
Offense: Tech's offense is no mystery. The viability of Johnson's triple option came into question a bit last year, but in retrospect it looks as if Tech's down year in 2010 was caused by garden variety inexperience. Even coming off of a relatively disastrous performance last week, the Jackets' offense is still the ninth best in the country, averaging 516.7 yards per game. Although his passing stats have dropped off lately, Washington can be a legit dual threat, and as a runner he's quicker and more natural than ex-Jackets QB Josh Nesbitt. The Jackets have three running backs that have carried the ball more than 20 times and also average more than nine yards a carry, and that group is headlined by Orwin Smith, the team's leading rusher in both yards (488) and yards per carry (an absurd 13.2).
Defense: Tech's defense this year has been good but unexceptional. The interesting thing here is that Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh tutored Al Golden while Golden was working for Groh at Virginia. Groh's 3-4 will not be a mystery to Golden, and the chess match between Miami's offensive staff and Groh is the fascinating subplot of this game. The Canes came out last week with a highly stylized and unexpected first drive last week (wildcat snaps, bubble screens etc.) and it will be interesting to see how Golden's knowledge of Groh's philosophy impacted Fisch's scripts for the first few drives. The Tech defense is solid against the pass, and the defense thrives on getting offenses in long yardage situations.
Match up in Miami's favor: According to Football Outsiders, the Jackets defense been one of the worst in the country (91st overall) on standard downs, defined as first down, second down with less than seven yards to go, and third down with less than five yards to go. Meanwhile, the Canes offense is currently rated as fourth best in the country on those same downs. If the Canes can stay on schedule and avoid penalties, they should be able to move the ball with ease, much like we saw in the first half last week against North Carolina.
Match up in Georgia Tech's favor: This will come as a major surprise, but Tech's running game should be able to massacre the Canes defense. The depletion of Miami's defensive line is no secret, and now the Canes will be without senior defensive tackle Micanor Regis, who punched some Tar Heel in the nuts last week. The rest of the Canes defense also can't tackle (Sean Spence aside), and Tech's offense thrives on missed tackles and big plays. Pray for help.