Miami Gardens, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - The 14th-ranked Miami Hurricanes open up ACC play as they host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in a key ACC Coastal Division showdown at Sun Life Stadium.
Al Golden's Hurricanes have been impressive in the first month of the 2013 season, as they have yet to trail in any game on the schedule thus far, en route to a 4-0 record. The team opened the year with a 34-6 win over Florida Atlantic, followed by a key victory over nationally-ranked Florida (21-16). The Hurricanes then routed Savannah State (77-7) to close out a three-game homestand to start the year. The team's first road trip came this past weekend and the results were the same, with a 49-21 besting of South Florida. Now the team embarks on its ACC schedule and is regarded as one of the favorites in the Coastal Division.
Golden thought his team performed well against the Bulls, despite the time off.
"I thought we called a good game early on and I thought the defense settled down after that first 15. They [USF] did what we thought they would do, but they executed better than we did and that's why they scored. Again, good, tough game on the road and now it's time to go back and get ready for the ACC."
Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets would like to prove they are worthy of contention in the division. Georgia Tech opened the year with three wins over Elon (70-0), Duke (38-14) and North Carolina (28-20). However, last week the Yellow Jacket suffered their first loss in 2013, a 17-10 setback to Virginia Tech to fall to 2-1 in conference play, ending a six-game conference win streak dating back to last year.
Georgia Tech has a 10-8 advantage in the series with Miami all-time, but the Hurricanes have closed the gap a bit with wins in each of the last four meetings, including a thrilling 42-36 overtime decision in 2012.
Under Johnson and his spread attack, Georgia Tech has always been among the best rushing teams in the nation. While early indications are that it is more of the same in 2013, Virginia Tech stifled the usually potent rushing attack last week, holding Tech to just 129 yards on the ground. Unfortunately, the team lacks the balance to compensate.
The ground game is responsible for just under 300 yards per game, as tailbacks David Simms (5.0 ypc, four TDs) and Robert Godhigh (9.9 ypc) and quarterback Vad Lee (three TDs) all create problems for opposing defenses. The heavy dose of the run allows defenses to be a little less concerned about Tech's passing game. Lee has been unable to take advantage, completing just 46 percent of his passes, for just 562 yards, with seven touchdowns and three interceptions.
Georgia Tech's defense has been sharp in several areas, including its rush defense (94.2 ypg) and pass defense (181.2 ypg). The result is the ninth- ranked team in the country in total defense (275.5 ypg). Big plays however, have been few and far between with this unit, as Tech has collected just six sacks and five takeaways in the first four games.
Senior LB Brandon Watts leads the team in tackles with 27 stops (one sack). Senior DB Jemea Thomas is second with 21 total tackles, followed by sophomore LB Jabari Hunt-Days (18 tackles, one INT) and junior LB Quayshawn Nealy (17 tackles).
Miami's balanced offense will be a real test for Georgia Tech this weekend. The Hurricanes are averaging 45.2 ppg thus far, moving the chains with ease both on the ground (210.5 ypg) and through the air (262.5 ypg).
Senior quarterback Stephen Morris is a serviceable steward of the Miami offense, completing 56.9 percent of his passes, for 629 yards with six TDs and just two INTs. Senior wideout Allen Hurns is a big target at 6-foot-3 and leads the receiving corps with 16 catches, for 275 yards. However, seven different players have combined for the 10 receiving touchdowns on the season.
The crown jewel of the offensive attack for Miami is sophomore tailback Duke Johnson. The 5-9, 196-pounder is averaging 6.3 yards per carry and leads the team with 388 yards and four TDs through the first four games.
The Hurricanes have thrived in the big play department on defense. The team has already racked up 16 sacks, four more than Miami had all of 2012. Miami is also tied for the lead in the ACC with 13 forced turnovers (fifth nationally).
The top playmakers on the roster include LBs Denzel Perryman (team-high 23 tackles, one forced fumble) and Jimmy Gaines (21 tackles, one fumble recovery) and defensive end Anthony Chickillo (13 tackles, two sacks).
Johnson knows his Yellow Jackets have to neutralize Perryman.
"He's a good player and Miami always has good players. They're very athletic and they can run. We had a crazy game with them last year. But he's a quality player and you can see that. He creates big plays for them and creates turnovers. He's played a lot of football for them."