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Three reasons: Georgia Tech at Miami

9/17/2009

Posted by ESPN.com’s Heather Dinich

It should be a close game, and both Georgia Tech and Miami have reasons to be confident. Here’s a look at the top three things each team has going for it heading into tonight’s game.

THREE REASONS MIAMI WILL WIN

1. Jacory Harris. Against Florida State, Harris was excellent throwing the ball downfield. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Harris completed 9 of 13 passes greater than 10 yards and averaged 20 yards per attempt. He threw two touchdowns and one interception. He’s so poised and calm in clutch situations, and he’s got plenty of talented players to distribute the ball to.

2. Intangibles. Miami is 13-2 on Thursday night games and 9-0 at home. They’re not looking ahead to the Virginia Tech game (at least they say they’re not), but a win tonight would go a long way in giving them confidence heading into Blacksburg next week. If the Canes win, it will give them their second win over a ranked opponent this season, boost them to 2-0 in league play, and give Randy Shannon his third straight victory in a home opener.

3. Improved run defense. Considering Florida State’s running game has struggled in its first two games, it’s hard to judge just how much better it really is, but let’s give the Canes credit for what they’ve done so far. According to ESPN’s Stats & Information (don’t you love those guys?) on 14 first-down rushes, Miami's defense allowed only four carries of over four yards against FSU. That means on 71.4 percent of first-down carries, FSU gained three yards or less. Miami's defense is tied for 13th in the nation for percent of first-down carries under four yards. If they can stop Tech's option attack on first down, it could go a long way, as Josh Nesbitt is 1-for-7 on second downs this season.

THREE REASONS GEORGIA TECH WILL WIN

1. Too many options. Anthony Allen, Jonathan Dwyer, Roddy Jones and more all have big-play capabilities, and it only takes a few to change a game. Miami’s defense can slow these guys, but it’s certainly not going to stop them. The Jackets will do what they do best -- run the ball and control the clock.

2. Coaching. There shouldn’t be any trick plays involving fake field goals, but Paul Johnson has a few decades on Randy Shannon. It made a difference last week against Clemson, particularly in the first half, and odds are it will make a difference tonight, too. Mark Whipple might meet his match, as Johnson calls the plays for Tech.

3. Derrick Morgan. If there is one player all season that Miami’s offensive line needs to shield Harris from, Morgan is it, and right tackle Matt Pipho will probably need some help with that. Morgan had four tackles for loss, three sacks and a team best 10 tackles in Georgia Tech's 30-27 win over Clemson. The pressure he helped bring forced Clemson into two interceptions last week.