I know what a lot of you out there are thinking. The Miami Hurricanes are going to get off to a 4-0 start under new coach Mark Richt and then all that’s needed is a win over Florida State on Oct. 8 and, bingo, it’s back in the Top 10, baby.
It could happen that way, but I’m not looking past Georgia Tech on Oct. 1 at whatever they’re calling the Dolphins’ stadium by then.
That Tech game is a dragon that Richt needs to slay, as he regularly did at Georgia. It’s a sneaky spot on the schedule that needs to get way more attention if Miami is ever going to win the ACC Coastal Division.
Here’s the problem. The Hurricanes have FSU, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame all in a row in October. Everybody can see that challenge.
Prior to that come Florida A&M, FAU, Appalachian State and Georgia Tech to open Miami’s season. Easy to dismiss those as warmup games, and that confidence is bolstered by Richt’s 13-2 record against Georgia Tech during his time as coach of the Georgia Bulldogs.
Go back just two years, however, and you’ll find the Yellow Jackets beating both Georgia and Miami.
Richt’s Dawgs were rolling at 9-2 toward the end of 2014 and shooting for a major bowl until Tech beat them in overtime. A 53-yard field goal on the final play of regulation made that possible, but 399 rushing yards pounded out by the Yellow Jacket’s irksome option attack did the real damage.
Earlier in the year Tech rushed for 371 in a 28-17 win over the Hurricanes.
Overall, Miami has taken firm control of the Georgia Tech series, but it sure got off to a rocky start when the Hurricanes were new to the ACC.
Back in 2005, one of Larry Coker’s better teams was thinking national title after getting off to an 8-0 start and a climb to No. 3 in the AP poll. Then came a 14-10 loss to Georgia Tech, a team that was nothing special at the time, and the steam went right out of the season.
For all who are focused, then, on beating the Seminoles, or on proving ACC media members wrong in predicting a runnerup finish for Miami in the Coastal behind North Carolina, here’s a blinking caution light.
The foundation for making all that count is a win over Georgia Tech, a fellow member of the Coastal Division. Richt knows that is never easy and it’s never fun.
His last game as Georgia coach was an ugly 13-7 win over the Yellow Jackets last November, and the next day he was let go.