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Miami Hurricanes Football 2016 Schedule Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

As part of the dwindling off season, State of the U 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.

Justin Thomas anchors a lethal Georgia Tech option attack
Justin Thomas anchors a lethal Georgia Tech option attack
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Hurricanes Football 2016 Schedule Preview: Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, led by veteran head coach Paul Johnson, are a familiar foe for the Miami Hurricanes. As an ACC coastal division rival, Georgia Tech is one of Miami’s toughest conference opponents of the year. Georgia Tech won the ACC coastal division in 2014, and the ‘Canes annual matchup against the Yellow Jackets often becomes a turning point in Miami’s season.

In 2016, Miami’s matchup with Georgia Tech is the ‘Canes first conference game of the year. It comes after a late September bye, and if Miami takes care of business, the Hurricanes should come in undefeated.

Schedule screenshot

History of the Rivalry

The Miami versus Georgia Tech rivalry is relatively new to the college scene, and truly began to heat up after the Hurricanes joined the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) in 2004. Georgia Tech leads Miami in the all-time series between the two schools 11-10, but since 2009, the Yellow Jackets have only had one victory over ‘Canes.

Despite the rocky tenures of Randy Shannon and Al Golden, Miami has handled Georgia Tech well over the past decade in the ACC. Historically, this matchup has served as a turning point for Georgia Tech, with the Yellow Jackets winning a BCS bowl game in 2014 after beating Miami in the regular season. Along with Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech is one of the most decorated programs in Miami’s division, and intimidates with an option-heavy offense.

What to expect this season

Since Paul Johnson was hired as Georgia Tech’s head coach nearly ten years ago, the Yellow Jackets have run a wing-t style offense. The Yellow Jackets have had success with it in the past, but like any other offense in the country, great players make it work.

With a great host of players, 2014 was a stellar year for Georgia Tech culminating in a victory at the Discover Orange Bowl. Due to that great season, Georgia Tech had high expectations entering 2015 led by Quarterback Justin Thomas. Despite the large goals; however, the Yellow Jackets fell flat after a series of tough losses with a final record of 3-9. The Hurricanes beat Georgia Tech at home in one of the final games of the season, and continued to shut down their option.

The Yellow Jackets offense is a difficult obstacle for most teams, leaving only the most disciplined teams as viable competition. Every player from the secondary to the front four is crucial in making stops. And although it may surprise many Miami fans, Al Golden and his staff seemed to have the code cracked on how to stop them.

Despite his 3-1 record against Georgia Tech; however, Golden didn’t get the job done in Miami, and was fired midway through the season. In December the ‘Canes brought in proven winner Mark Richt as their head coach; and to no surprise, Richt has been stellar against Georgia Tech as well.

As the University of Georgia's head coach, Richt had a dominant 13-2 record in their rivalry against the Yellow Jackets. Richt simply knew the answers to Georgia Tech’s option offense, and constantly put his players in positions to make plays.

This year, Miami will travel to Georgia Tech for the game, and will step into what is always a hostile environment for opponents.  In 2014, the last time the ‘Canes entered Bobby Dodd stadium, they came home with a loss. Duke Johnson carried the ball less than 15 times, and Miami never got it going in a primetime matchup.

If Miami wants to avoid that type of a performance this year,  they will have to control the pace of the game, and therefore stop the option. Coaching is more evident on the field against Georgia Tech than against most teams, so it will be interesting to see if Manny Diaz’s defense plays a disciplined game against their tricky option.

Regardless of the outcome, there is little doubt that this game will be crucial in defining Miam's performance this season. Florida State awaits the following week, so if Miami doesn’t pick up a win against Georgia Tech, the Hurricanes could very well open up ACC play with an 0-2 record.