Canes fans, if you didn’t feel the pressure at Boston College or against Duke, chances are you are now. Miami travels up to Atlanta this weekend for what is a do-or-die matchup with the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Both the Hurricanes and Yellow Jackets come into the game with the record of 5-4, both trying to become bowl eligible, yet both teams are heading in different directions.
As we all know, the last month for Miami has been hell, as they currently ride a three-game losing streak into Bobby Dodd Stadium, with all three defeats being conference losses.
On the other hand, head coach Paul Johnson has his Yellow Jackets heading in the right direction, coming off back-to-back road wins against Virginia Tech and North Carolina, as well as winning four-of-their-last-five. Also, Saturday will be the first time all year that Miami goes into the game as the underdog.
Last years meeting between the two was an instant classic. At Hard Rock Stadium, in a game that was highlighted by a driving rainstorm, Miami narrowly squeezed past Tech, thanks to a late drive led by Malik Rosier, and highlighted by a fourth-down conversion catch by Darrell Langham. That catch set up a game-winning field-goal by Michael Badgley, as the Hurricanes escaped 25-24.
Breaking down the Hurricanes for this game won’t take long, because there’s not much left to say. A year that began with so much optimism, ranked eighth in the pre-season, has come to this. The Hurricanes haven’t won a game in a month, and if Miami loses Saturday, then they fall to 5-5, .500 record in November, with another road game at Virginia Tech coming up next weekend.
Frankly put, the Hurricanes must win this game.
THE OFFENSE HAS TO DO SOMETHING
Amazingly, the Hurricanes offense has gone from bad-to-worse. In the last three games, all losses, they’ve scored a combined 39 points, and are averaging just 13 points during the three-game losing streak.
Both Rosier and N’Kosi Perry saw time against Duke last week at quarterback, and both struggled. It was announced Thursday that Perry would be starting against Saturday. Both quarterbacks have been very up-and-down all season, though Perry has thrown nearly double the touchdowns as the senior Rosier.
The running-game finally resurrected itself against Duke, with Miami rushing for a total of 300 yards, their highest total of the season. Travis Homer and Deejay Dallas both had well over 100 yards, and though Homer strained his calf on Saturday, he is expected to go against Georgia Tech.
The three biggest things for the Canes offense is controlling the ball with time of possession, scoring points, and limiting their turnovers. In the last two weeks, Miami has had costly second-half turnovers inside their own territory that changed both games drastically.
NEEDING THE DEFENSE MORE THAN EVER
Other than allowing a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the game against Duke, Miami’s defense was solid in the 20-12 loss. Playing especially well was Miami’s defensive-line, which totaled five quarterback hurries, 3.5 TFL’s and a sack.
Despite the defeat, Joe Jackson had a game for Miami. pic.twitter.com/xJAHw5EW8D— PFF College (@PFF_College) November 6, 2018
Though over the last two games, their flaws, such as over-committing on the run have been made more public, most notably against Boston College, as the Eagles ran the ball for over 200 yards.
Finding themselves in another must-win situation, and against Georgia Tech’s potent triple-option attack, Manny Diaz’s defense will be relied on more than ever.
Miami’s turnovers have also been scarce lately defensively, and the Turnover Chain hasn’t been too frequent of an image on the Canes sideline. After three interceptions against Virginia, the Hurricanes have notched just one per game the last two weeks. If Miami wants to win, creating turnovers will have to be part of the game.
Good news for Miami is that the Yellow Jackets have had problems this season fumbling the ball, and have coughed it over six times in the last three games.
GETTING TO KNOW GEORGIA TECH (OFFENSE):
Offensively, the Yellow Jackets currently own the number-one ranked rushing offense in the country, and are averaging, get this, 377 yards per game running the football.
So yes, this team knows how to run the football, they also know how to put up points as well. Their 41 -rushing-touchdowns are by far the most in the nation.
In the backfield, running-back Jordan Mason and even quarterbacks TaQuon Marshall plus Tobias Oliver all have over 600 yards running the ball this season.
While Georgia Tech didn’t have a 100-yard rusher against Miami last season, they still totaled over 220 yards rushing a team.
Marshall was pulled last week in Tech’s win against UNC for Oliver, and coach Johnson has not announced yet who will be starting against Miami. The Yellow Jackets threw the ball just twice against the Tar Heels, with Oliver going 2-2 for 104 yards and a touchdown. Oliver is extremely dangerous with the ball, and currently leads Georgia Tech in rushing with 780 yards.
Week 10 @ACCFootball Players of the Week:— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) November 5, 2018
Airing it out for 6⃣!@GeorgiaTechFB's Tobias Oliver is the ACC Rookie of the Week for the 2nd time!#TogetherWeSwarm (@tobiasoliver_8) pic.twitter.com/Iirn5fAjPO
Don’t expect the Yellow Jackets to air it out too much, due to the fact that they’ve had more games this season where they’ve thrown the ball less than 10 times than games with 10-or-more passes. In their last two games, Tech has thrown the ball a total of three times.
GETTING TO KNOW GEORGIA TECH (DEFENSE):
Similar to the Miami offense, the Yellow Jackets defense has been extremely streaky all season. They gave up 49 points to both USF and Clemson, and teams throughout the year have been able to get into the end zone and score points.
2018 has been the first year under new defensive coordinator Nate Woody, as they still strive to learn together.
Statistically against the pass and also the run, Georgia Tech is average in terms of ranks in the country, though they’re tougher against the run. Bad news however for the Ramblin’ Wreck, they do rank 95th nationally in defensive efficiency.
Also similar to the Hurricanes defense, the Yellow Jackets have been able to create turnovers, as they’ve totaled 19 takeaways in 2018, same number as Miami.
A special player to watch on defense for Georgia Tech is lineman Anree Saint-Amour, who currently leads this team with four sacks as well as 10.5 TFL’s.
Look for the Hurricanes offense to get a boost from Perry starting, and also to take advantage of the inconsistent Georgia Tech defense, and pray Miami’s defense holds against the triple-option.
The hometown crowd will be in full-force for the Yellow Jackets in their white-out, so (hopefully) look for Miami to be aggressive offensively right from the start, because if the Canes get behind early, it may be an easy Yellow Jacket dub.
No keys to victory or key players this week, it’s very simple, it is honestly do-or-die for the Hurricanes this Saturday.