Mark Richt hopes his players are done celebrating last week’s victory at Florida State, which ended a seven-year losing streak to the Hurricanes’ state rivals.
That’s because UM (4-0. 2-0 ACC) faces another important battle this Saturday against Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-0 ACC). The winner will have first place in the ACC Coastal Division all to themselves.
Defensively, it will be a much different challenge than what the Canes faced against the Seminoles. The Yellow Jackets’ option attack leads the conference and is ranked second nationally with 396 rushing yards per game.
“Our rushing defense really hasn’t been lights out,” said Richt. “We’ve really got our work cut out for us, and I’m hoping our guys will do a good job of tackling out there in space, defeating blocks, doing things you’ve got to do to try to slow them down.”
Having been the head coach at Georgia for 15 seasons before he landed at Miami, Richt at least knows what to expect and will make sure his players are well prepared for the misdirection Georgia Tech throws at teams. He also knows head coach Paul Johnson will have tweaked his playbook to take advantage of the Hurricanes’ aggressive pursuit.
“(Georgia Tech’s) offense is one that is one of the more difficult to prepare for and to try to slow down,” said Richt. “(Johnson) understands his system so well that he doesn’t even need a call sheet. He just watches the game and knows exactly what to call.
“If he sees something, he knows how to counterpunch.”
Yellow Jackets quarterback TaQuon Marshall leads the ACC in rushing (130.8 yards per game) and running back Kirvonte Benson is second, averaging just 11 fewer yards, so the Yellow Jackets can be expected to ride their running game and take advantage of play-action passes for big hits.
“They’ve got a big front seven. They run well. May have the best group of line backers in the league,” Johnson said of UM’s defense. “They’re very aggressive. And when they happen to guess right, they get you, and hopefully we can guess right some against them.”
Georgia Tech is one of only four teams overall that rank among the nation’s top 20 in both total defense and total offense.
Defensively, the Jackets have forced three-and-outs on 53.1 percent of opponents’ possessions.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
All times Central
Clemson at Syracuse, 6 p.m., ESPN
N.C. State at Pittsburgh, 11 a.m. CT, ACC Network
Florida State at Duke, 11 a.m., ESPN2
Boston College at Louisville, 11:20 a.m., ACC Network
Virginia at North Carolina, 2:30 p.m., ACC Network
Georgia Tech at Miami, 2:30 p.m. ABC
- Clemson (6-0, 4-0):Last Week – W, Wake Forest, 28-14. The Impact – Kelly Bryant has been cleared to play after ankle injury last Saturday, but is that an unnecessary risk? Surely, Tigers could beat Syracuse with backup QB.
- Miami (4-0, 2-0):Last Week – W, at Florida State, 24-20. The Impact – Former FSU assistant Mark Richt had happy homecoming in Tallahassee and now has No. 11 Hurricanes (he’s an alum) challenging for first ACC Coastal Division title.
- Virginia Tech (5-1, 1-1): Last Week – W, at Boston College, 23-10. The Impact – Hokies are winning but Justin Fuente says his team still gives him a “three-and-a-half hour stomach ache.” Losing receiver Cam Phillips to sprained foot didn’t settle his nerves.
- N.C. State (5-1, 3-0):Last Week – W, Louisville, 39-25. The Impact – Wolfpack are rolling, off to best start in ACC since 2002 after wins over ‘Noles and ‘Cards, and Clemson has to come to Raleigh in four weeks.
- Louisville (4-2, 1-2):Last Week – L, at N.C. State, 39-25. The Impact – Throwing a Pick-6, and being blown up at goal line by linebacker Germaine Pratt on return, won’t be a Heisman memory for Lamar Jackson.
6. Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-0):Last Week – Idle. The Impact – Yellow Jackets are only ACC team that ranks among top 20 in total defense (No. 6) and total offense (No. 20) going into Coastal showdown with UM.
7. Wake Forest (4-2, 1-2):Last Week – L, at Clemson, 28-14. The Impact – Having lost last two, Deacs have extra week to dwell on it. For what it’s worth, they are 0-22 when facing 5-0 teams. Oh, they “beat” Tigers 14-0 over last eight minutes.
8. Florida State (1-3, 1-3):Last Week – L, Miami, 24-20. The Impact – Seminoles scored 17 points in last 12 minutes but surrendered two TDs to UM in final five minutes, including winning six with six seconds left. Jimbo Fisher is 8-7 in last 15 ACC games.
9. Virginia (4-1, 1-0):Last Week – W, Duke, 28-21. The Impact: Kurt Benkert overcame a fumble and two interceptions, including a Pick-6, to rally Cavs with three TD passes. Bronco Mendenhall’s team plays four of next six games on road.
10. Duke (4-2, 1-2):Last Week – W, at Virginia, 28-21. The Impact: Playing six of eight home games to start season no longer so promising with mad-at-world FSU coming to town next.
11. Syracuse (3-3, 1-1):Last Week – W, Pittsburgh, 27-24. The Impact – Having lost three games by single digits Orange figured out how to win a close game. Still, there’s trouble looming with Friday’s coaching clash between Dino and Dabo.
12. Pittsburgh (2-4, 0-2): Last Week – L, at Syracuse, 27-24. The Impact – With offense sputtering, Panthers left wondering how they won a 76-61 shootout over Syracuse last season that set NCAA record for points in a game.
13. Boston College (2-4, 0-3): Last Week – L, Virginia Tech, 23-10. The Impact – Eagles, who won two league games last season, are in danger of going winless in ACC for second time in three seasons.
14. North Carolina (1-5, 0-4):Last Week – L, Notre Dame, 33-10. The Impact – Larry Fedora’s team is dwelling in ACC cellar for a reason – 14th in scoring defense (33.0), total defense (466.8 yards).
CLEMSON at Syracuse
N.C. STATE at Pitt
FLORIDA STATE at Duke
Boston College at LOUISVILLE
VIRGINIA at North Carolina
Georgia Tech at MIAMI
Last Week: 7-0