Georgia Tech at Miami
When: 12:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Miami Gardens, Fla.
On TV: ACC Network
For Miami, it’ll be a bittersweet farewell for those playing their last home games as Hurricanes.
For Georgia Tech, it’ll be a bittersweet return to the site of their last bowl win.
A pair of teams that entered the season with big aspirations are now left to play out the regular-season string, with Miami (6-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) hosting Georgia Tech (3-7, 1-6) on Saturday. The last time Georgia Tech was at Sun Life Stadium, the Yellow Jackets were winning an Orange Bowl. This year, it’s virtually certain that they’ll miss a bowl game for the first time since 1996.
“Not something we planned on,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said.
Those words also seem fitting from the Miami perspective.
The Hurricanes were eliminated from the ACC’s Coastal Division race by North Carolina last weekend in a blowout loss — Miami’s second in a four-game span. Unlike Georgia Tech, Miami at least has a bowl game to look forward to, and senior cornerback Tracy Howard said the Hurricanes are playing for even more than that.
“Any time you get the chance to play football, you have to cherish it,” said Howard, one of those seniors playing his final home game as a Hurricane this weekend. “It shouldn’t matter if you’re playing for the Coastal or the national championship. You came here to play football at the end of the day. That’s what has to drive us.”
Interim Miami coach Larry Scott said he wants his team to look at Saturday as an opportunity, not a consolation prize.
“This group has been resilient,” Scott said. “They’ve stood and been through a lot, and they’re still standing.”
Here’s some other things to know going into Saturday:
FLAG DAZE: Miami entered this week having been called for 96 penalties this season, the most in the nation (and passed earlier this week by Bowling Green, which now has 97). Georgia Tech comes into this week having been flagged only 35 times, second-fewest in the nation behind only Navy’s 29. Consider this nugget — Miami was flagged as many times in games at Duke and North Carolina as Georgia Tech has been all season.
MOVING ON UP: Quarterback Brad Kaaya continues to be one of the true bright spots for the Hurricanes. The sophomore’s next touchdown pass will be the 40th of his Miami career, which would tie him with Bernie Kosar for No. 9 on the Hurricanes’ all-time list. And he’s five completions away from cracking the Miami top 10 in that stat as well; he has 405 already, five behind No. 10 Steve Walsh’s 410.
NOT GREAT EIGHT: Another loss by the Yellow Jackets would give Georgia Tech its most defeats in a season since the 1994 team went 1-10. Besides losing seven games already this year, Georgia Tech also dropped that many in 2010 and 2012.
BOWL HOPES: Miami’s football team could in a way follow the path its basketball team set last spring. The basketball Hurricanes went to New York for the NIT championship game last season, and Miami might be off to the Big Apple to end its football season as well. There’s mutual interest between Miami and officials from the Pinstripe Bowl, but the Hurricanes surely need at least one more win — and probably two — to get to Yankee Stadium next month.
HAVING OPTIONS: Georgia Tech’s triple-option rush offense gives just about every team fits, with the Jackets ranking seventh nationally this season by running for 257 yards per game. It’ll be yet another challenge for Miami, which has given up a bit more than 200 rushing yards per game this season and is on pace to be the first Hurricane team in 71 years to allow more than 5 yards per carry.