The ACC gets the Thursday night stage all to itself again, this time for #14 AP/13 Coaches Georgia Tech (2-0, 1-0 ACC) visiting #20/22 Miami (1-0, 1-0 ACC) in a rematch (7:30 PM on ESPN) of a game that got ugly for the Hurricanes. Paul Johnson's Yellow Jackets rushed for 472 yards in the 41-23 win, and the effort was the best rushing effort against Miami since 1944 (Auburn, 536 yards). Led by Jonathan Dwyer's 128 yards four Jackets rushed for at least seventy-eight yards on a night in which the Hurricanes failed to play assignment football, routinely getting caught out of position. Lucas Cox was the runner who finished with seventy-eight yards, but the Yellow Jackets have a bigger threat taking the carries that don't go to Dwyer, QB Josh Nesbitt or RB Roddy Jones.
Louisville transfer Anthony Allen racked up 127 yards on just five carries in Georgia Tech's win over Clemson last Thursday, breaking one for an eight-two yard touchdown. Randy Shannon and company know what they'll be in for; the key is to execute your assignment and not get caught out of position. Team speed on defense can be suicidal if the players aren't getting to where they need to be. Miami's main defensive issue in the opener was their secondary but Florida State's run game is nothing like the Jackets', whether you look at the scheme or how effective it is.
Did Jacory Harris come of age in the Labor Day thriller? That's the question that will be answered in front of a national television audience. The true difference makers get the job done week in and week out; Harris has had more than a week to go over both the tape from the Florida State game and what he'll see from a fast Georgia Tech defense that can take advantage of mistakes in the passing game (two interceptions against Clemson). If backs Graig Cooper and Javarris James can loosen up the Yellow Jacket defense on the ground look for things to open up for Harris.
This can go one of two ways: Georgia Tech gashes the Hurricanes on the ground all night, or Miami takes care of their assignments. If that happens, expect another wild night in the ACC. The pick here is Georgia Tech, but this will be a close game with a thrilling finish.
Friday: #10/10 Boise State @ Fresno State (9 PM on ESPN)
This has been cited as the biggest in-conference roadblock to the Broncos getting back to the BCS (they do visit Tulsa in October), and that could be accurate given how Louisiana Tech and Nevada have played so far. Pat Hill's Bulldogs gave Wisconsin all they wanted in Madison last week, falling in overtime to the Badgers. Last season's meeting got out of hand in Boise, with the Broncos racking up 494 yards and sixty-one points in the 61-10 beating. A big part of the loss for Fresno State: their inability to run the football. Ryan Matthews was out and the Bulldogs ran for just eighty-three yards on 35 carries.
It also didn't help that Boise State averaged more than eight yards per play; if Fresno State is to entertain any thoughts of pulling the upset they've got to win first down defensively. Kellen Moore and company have many options to turn to offensively but they've haven't hit that extra gear in either of their two wins. Eight of the eleven meetings have taken place since the Broncos joined the WAC in 2001, and they've won seven of those eight meetings. The lone defeat: at Fresno State in 2005. Fresno State is also going up against Boise State's history in WAC openers; they're 8-0 all-time.
Boise State will have to work, you wouldn't expect anything less than a streetfight from a Pat Hill-coached team especially when considering what happened last season. But Chris Petersen's team will do enough to pick up the win and continue on their quest towards another WAC title, with fans dreaming of another BCS berth at season's end.