ATLANTA -- When big, bad Miami joined the Atlantic Coast Conference, everyone wondered how middle-of-the-pack schools such as Georgia Tech would fare against the Hurricanes.
It took only two years for the Yellow Jackets to answer that question: Just fine.
No. 21 Georgia Tech will be going for its second straight win over Miami when the teams meet in a crucial division game tomorrow at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Even coming off a discouraging loss to Clemson, the Yellow Jackets (5-2, 3-1 ACC) can claim a commanding position for a spot in the Dec. 2 conference championship game at Jacksonville, Fla.
All they have to do is repeat last year's stunning upset at the Orange Bowl. Georgia Tech knocked off the nation's No. 3 team with seven sacks, seven pass breakups, and a game-saving interception by Dennis Davis just short of the end zone. The Hurricanes were held to 30 yards rushing on 30 carries.
"We kept fighting, we kept pushing," tight end Michael Matthews recalled. "When the opportunity was there, when we needed a first down, we got the first down. When we needed to score, we got the score. I remember just the perseverance throughout the game."
Linebacker Philip Wheeler couldn't stop jumping around after that game, in which Miami became the highest-ranked opponent to lose to Georgia Tech since 1990.
"The emotion was just taking over my body," Wheeler said. "We had a lot of support after the game. Not much support before the game, because a lot of people didn't think we could do it, but after the game those people were giving us pats on the back."
The roles are reversed this year. Georgia Tech is actually a 5-point favorite, another sign of Miami's fallen stature. The Hurricanes slipped from the rankings with a 24-point loss at Louisville and didn't help their reputation with a bench-clearing brawl against Florida International a couple of weeks ago, which led to the suspension of 13 players.
Georgia Tech isn't worried about a repeat of that fiasco. Gailey addressed it with his players before last week's game and expects both teams to be on their best behavior. Twelve of Miami's suspended players are eligible to return after sitting out a 20-15 victory over Duke.
"I don't think I have to talk about it again," Gailey said. "I don't think it'll be an issue, because they've addressed it again as well. I think we'll have a very clean game."
In two previous ACC meetings against Miami, the Yellow Jackets haven't noticed anything unusual about this supposedly outlaw program. The trash-talking levels are about normal. Cheap shots have been kept to a minimum. No helmet-swinging fights have broken out.
"I don't think they are anything out of the norm," Matthews said.
Georgia Tech leads the Coastal Division by a half-game over Miami (5-2, 2-1). If the Yellow Jackets win tomorrow, they would have to lose at least two of their final three ACC games to spoil a potential rematch with Clemson, which played Virginia Tech last night, in the title game.
They are eager for another shot at the Tigers after losing, 31-7, at Death Valley.