1-0 (1-0 ACC)
Miami was expected to struggle early in the season thanks to a brutal four-game stretch against four ranked opponents, but one week into their 2009 campaign, the outlook has gotten brighter. The Hurricanes traveled to Tallahassee for a Monday night battle against No. 18 Florida State and pulled off the upset, topping the Seminoles 38-34 in one of the most exciting games of the opening week. With upcoming games against a pair of reeling teams in Virginia Tech and Oklahoma, the No. 20 Hurricanes have the opportunity to vault themselves into the upper tier of the national rankings.
Against FSU, Miami scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, including one with less than two minutes left, to take a late lead. After the Seminole offense drove to within the Miami five-yard line in the final minute, the Hurricanes’ defense stepped up and held the home team out of the end zone on three straight plays to seal the victory.
Several Miami players played key roles in the comeback win, but none was more impressive than quarterback Jacory Harris. In just his third career start for Miami, Harris completed 21 of 34 passes for 386 yards, including an accurate 40-yard strike to Travis Benjamin on the final drive to beat four Seminole defenders and set up the go-ahead touchdown.
Heading into the Sept. 17 battle against the Jackets, Miami will have ten days off to prepare for the game. The ground attack will have to produce for the Hurricanes to continue their early success. Tech’s strength on defense is in the secondary and FSU allowed the Hurricanes just 90 rushing yards in Monday’s game, including 31 yards from running back Graig Cooper, so the Hurricanes must find some semblance of balance on offense.
Miami’s defense did perform well against FSU’s own rushing attack in holding the Seminoles to 3.7 yards per carry, and the strong front seven will look to improve on last season’s dismal performance against Tech’s run-heavy option attack.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
1-0, (0-0 ACC)
The Jackets’ offense looked impressive on their first play of the season, with the entire unit executing their blocks perfectly to set up a 74-yard touchdown run for junior B-back Jonathan Dwyer. Tech had little trouble dispatching FCS opponent Jacksonville State for the second straight year as they opened a 31-7 halftime lead en route to a 37-17 victory.
The Jackets’ stars were on their games, but the team’s performance as a whole raised several concerns, including some that have lingered throughout the offseason. The offense had five fumbles, indicating that last year’s ball control issues may continue to plague the team this season, though most of the fumbles occurred in the open field well after the respective plays had developed. JSU was able to break a number of decent runs in the game as their offensive line proved to be a match for Tech’s revamped defensive front four.
Tech will need all three levels of the defense to perform well to contain a potent Miami offense. The Jackets’ secondary was solid against JSU, with junior rover Morgan Burnett collecting an interception and redshirt sophomore Jerrard Tarrant performing well in his dual role as starting cornerback and punt returner. Miami’s passing game stole the spotlight in week one after FSU shut down their ground game, but Hurricane running back Graig Cooper will pose a challenge for Tech’s front seven.
On the offensive side, Tech should receive a boost with the expected return of redshirt sophomore A-back Roddy Jones from a dislocated wrist. Jones, who started all 13 games last season at A-back and was one of Tech’s leading kickoff return men, was ready to play against Jacksonville State but was held out as a precaution. He ran for 97 yards on seven carries last year against Miami as the Jackets racked up 472 rushing yards in their 41-23 victory in Atlanta.
PREDICTION: Tech 28, Miami 24