ATLANTA — Al Golden says Miami’s three consecutive wins in the series with Georgia Tech won’t matter when the teams play Saturday.
Golden said this is a different, more physical Georgia Tech team. Oddsmakers agree; the Yellow Jackets are a two-touchdown favorite.
Georgia Tech (2-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) has scored more than 50 points in back-to-back wins over Presbyterian and Virginia following an overtime loss at Virginia Tech. Golden says the Yellow Jackets are “a complete team.”
Golden said Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, the architect of the Yellow Jackets’ spread-option offense, and defensive coordinator Al Groh is staff now have the players to fit their schemes.
“They have the type of team they want,” Golden said. “They’re very long at the wide receiver position. All their receiver are 6-2 plus.
“(Johnson) has got the speed that he wants at (running back). He’s got the kind of maturity and decision-making he wants at quarterback. Both sides of the ball have the personnel the way they want. When you turn on the tape, they look like it. They really look like it.”
Miami (2-1, 1-0) shares first place with Virginia Tech in the ACC’s Coastal Division.
The Hurricanes opened the season with a win at Boston College. A second road win would place Miami in a strong position in the division with its next four ACC games at home.
Miami has outscored Georgia Tech 92-34 the last three games, including a 24-7 win last season.
“They’ve kind of had our number the last couple of years,” Johnson said.
Golden said this Georgia Tech team is a more difficult challenge.
“The biggest difference right now in Georgia Tech is how physical they are, how rugged they are on both sides of the line and how mature they are,” Golden said.
Last week’s 38-10 win over Bethune-Cookman didn’t erase all the sting from Miami’s 52-13 loss at No. 15 Kansas State on Sept. 8.
“We’ve got such a long way to go,” Golden said. “I just hope the ACC Coastal serves as a trigger. I think it’s important our guys know who those members are, and this is one of those games. ... This is a great challenge for us. The Coastal games have to feel different. They have to, if you want to at some point be a competitor to get into the championship game.”
Miami freshman running back Duke Johnson leads the ACC with seven touchdowns, including four against Bethune-Cookman. Johnson leads the Hurricanes with 253 yards rushing but plays behind senior Mike James, who has 168 yards.
Junior quarterback Stephen Morris has completed 63.2 percent of his passes (67 of 106) for 633 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“Don’t underestimate the kind of players they’ll have,” Johnson said. “They’ll have as good players as anybody we play.”
Miami runs a pro-style offense, but Morris has fewer touchdown passes than Georgia Tech’s Tevin Washington, who has three scoring passes in the run-first attack.
Georgia Tech’s average of 18.9 yards per catch has been boosted by a long list of big gains: 82 yards by Jeff Greene, 70 yards by running back Zach Laskey, 50 yards by Jeremy Moore and 45 yards by Robert Godhigh.
There also have been big plays on the ground, including a 79-yard run by backup quarterback Vad Lee and a 77-yarder by Orwin Smith.
That’s a lot of big plays in only three games. Georgia Tech is the only FBS team with four plays of 70 yards or longer.
The Yellow Jackets were dominant from the start in last week’s 56-20 win over Virginia. Washington threw a 70-yard scoring pass to Laskey on the first snap. Smith added his 77-yard run for a touchdown on the second play of Georgia Tech’s next possession, and Washington opened his third series with a 60-yard run.
A strong start is especially important for Georgia Tech. Even though Washington has had success with big-play passes this season, the spread option isn’t designed for big comebacks.
Last year at Miami, Georgia Tech couldn’t respond after falling behind.
“I think they’ve played well and we haven’t,” Johnson said. “We haven’t gotten off to good starts and got behind.”
Johnson said his offense was forced to “abandon what you do and tried to play catch-up” after falling behind 24-7 in the second half last season.
“So it’s important we get off to a good start,” he said.
The last time Georgia Tech scored more than 50 points in back-to-back games was 1936 against Presbyterian (55-0) and Sewanee (58-0).