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Miami Hurricanes Schedule Preview: Georgia Tech comes to Miami

The SOTU 2013 Hurricane schedule preview continues with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, Miami's first conference game of the year. We take a look at the game below.

Mike James scores the winning touchdown against Georgia Tech
Mike James scores the winning touchdown against Georgia Tech

As part of the dwindling off season, SOTU will preview each game on the Canes' schedule. During the season there will be much more in-depth previews the week before each game, but these will serve to get you ready for what is to come. Enjoy!As part of the dwindling off season, SOTU will preview each game on the Canes' schedule. During the season there will be much more in-depth previews the week before each game, but these will serve to get you ready for what is to come. Enjoy!

One of the things that makes College Football fun is seeing each team craft their own unique identity and playing style. The next opponent that we take a look at has a very unique style, and has become one of Miami's toughest games over the course of the last decade.

Our schedule preview takes a look at the first Conference game of the 2013 season, which features the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets coming to SunLife Stadium on October 5th to take on the Miami Hurricanes.

Favorable History

As members of the Coastal Division of the ACC, this game between Georgia Tech and Miami has become an annual schedule staple. This familiarity lessens one of Georgia Tech's main advantages: the uniqueness of their Flexbone Option Offensive system. This system puts pressure on the defense in multiple ways, and makes assignment discipline one of the most important aspects of the game as a whole.

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson has spent the past 20 years of his coaching career honing and perfecting the Flexbone Option attack. Johnson was able to turn Navy from a 2-10 laughing stock to one of the toughest and most physical teams in the country thanks to the Flexbone Option Offense. Want a quick video explaining this unconventional offensive system? Of course you do.

Now, this system has its advantages and drawbacks, just like any. In Johnson's first year at Georgia Tech in 2008, the Yellow Jackets were able to defeat the Hurricanes 41-23. This win helped propel Georgia Tech to the Chik-Fil-A bowl, where they were soundly beaten by LSU.

Since the 2008 game, Miami has had Georgia Tech's number, winning the last 4 games by scores of 33-17, 35-10, 24-7, and last year's dramatic 42-36 comeback victory. Last year's game also gave us one of the signature moments of the season.

After catching a slant and gaining 12 yards, Freshman WR Malcolm Lewis was tackled and got wrapped up by a Georgia Tech defender. The play resulted in Lewis badly dislocating his ankle (I won't link the picture of the injury, but you can find it on the internet if you like) and was seen on the ground screaming in pain. Without hesitation, Al Golden rushed onto the field to be with his injured freshman receiver. The video below tells all you need to know (WARNING: yucky ankle injury):

That moment, that image cemented to Hurricanes fans that Al Golden cares for his players in a way that many coaches do not. I can't seem to remember Bobby Bowden or Urban Meyer rushing to be with an injured player. I also won't ever forget this moment when Al Golden did.

And now, the Option. Lots and lots of Option

Remember when I said that Georgia Tech ran a lot of Flexbone Option? Well, the frequency with which they run the ball, and proficiency while running it, has made the Yellow Jackets one of the top rushing teams int he country over recent years.

In Johnson's 5 years as coach, Georgia Tech has ranked 4th, 2nd, 1st, 2nd, and 4th nationally in rushing yards per game. Last season, they averaged just over 311 yards rushing per game. They also averaged 5.39 yards per carry, a healthy average for any team. 6 different players rushed for over 400 yards on the year, so focusing on eliminating one star player is not an effective option for stopping this potent ground based offense.

While this preview may have led you to think otherwise, Georgia Tech does pass from time to time. The passes usually come on play action (set-up by the aforementioned option running attack), with some standard drop back passes mixed in as well. The passing offense only averaged 130 yards passing per game, but don't let that number fool you. This team can strike quickly, and for big yardage, if the defense isn't focused and disciplined.

For the Canes, this is a chance to continue what should be an impressive offensive season. While we don't know exactly what the team will look like, and which schemes will become the favorites for this year's bunch, solid tests against Florida and USF should give the Canes the ability to tighten their performance heading into this first ACC game of the year.

Here's the last number I'll give you in this section: 808. No, I'm not talking about the Kanye West album, that's the number of times Georgia Tech ran the ball last season, working out to an average of 58 rushes per game. This offense loves to control the tempo of the game, and does so by running the ball over and over and over again. The Canes, however, have proven able to solve this Rubik's Cube before. Similar play should, hopefully, lead us to do the same again come October.

Players to Watch

For Georgia Tech:

QB Vad Lee saw plenty of playing time behind Senior QB Tevin Washington. He rushed 96 times for 544 yards and 9 TDs, and threw just 56 times on the year (48.2% completions, 596 yards, 4 TDs 3 Ints). He's the heir apparent at QB, and has the running skills to keep the GT offense lethal. His passing, however, needs work.

RBs Zach Laskey. Robert Godhigh, David Sims, and BJ Bostic all ran for 200 yards a season ago. GT usually has 2 or even 3 backs on the field at a given time, so all of these players, and even a couple more, will see upwards of 30 snaps per game. Any of them could have a breakout day, given the right circumstances.

LBs Jabari Hunt-Days and Quayshawn Nealy teamed to become one o the most productive duos in the conference, if not the country. Their play will be key in limiting the space Duke Johnson has to create magic on offense, as well as neutralizing the intermediate passing game (assuming this is a focus for Coley heading into this game).

For Miami:

QB Stephen Morris is the key to everything. He is the maestro conducting a virtuoso orchestra with booming cellos, basses, and tubas (Offensive Line) and graceful and dexterous woodwinds and violins (skill position players). He had a huge game in the comeback last year (436 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT), and could match those numbers again. Simply put, as Morris goes, Miami goes.

RB Duke Johnson is another focal point player. A Freshman All-American last season, Johnson looks to build upon that success as a Sophomore. He can impact the game in both the rushing and passing phases of the offense, and is a very dangerous return man. He won't return kicks as often as he did as a Freshman, but if he does, ht could change the game on any play.

The Defense as a whole is probably the most important "player" in this match-up. The struggles the defense had last season are well chronicled, and nearly cost the Hurricanes this game. To pull out a win against a tough conference opponent, improvement will need to be seen.

Overall Impression

Whatever may have happened before this game, focus and execution need to be as polished as possible. Conference games have extra meaning, and this being a division game has double the meaning of other non-division conference games. Georgia Tech is a tough, disciplined team, whose schemes on offense and defense are unique. This means that the prior games won't help Miami prepare for this, and could actually work actively against the Canes.

Georgia Tech has not been able to win against Miami in the past 4 years when the Canes were admittedly a struggling team. They would surely love nothing more than derail a burgeoning Miami resurgence by dealing the Canes an early conference loss.