By TIM REYNOLDS
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Halfway through the season, Miami is in an interesting spot in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division race.
The Hurricanes are next-to-last in the seven-team division — and a game out of first place.
Miami (3-3, 1-2) probably saved its season last week with a win over Virginia, and now plays host to last-place Georgia Tech (1-5, 0-3) on Saturday in a game that the Hurricanes know they have to have if their Coastal hopes are going to continue.
“Last week does not count for this week,” Miami coach Manny Diaz said. “We know that, if you watch any weekend of college football. We have a challenge in Georgia Tech. We’ll be back in our stadium and we’re looking forward to an enthusiastic crowd. As crazy as it sounds, we only have two more home games left this year.”
The Hurricanes will start N’Kosi Perry at quarterback for the second consecutive week over Jarren Williams, who Diaz says remains the first-stringer. Williams is dealing with a shoulder injury.
Georgia Tech’s offense is improving, or at least trending the right way. It has set season-highs for yards in each of its last two games — 321 against North Carolina two weeks ago, then 379 against Duke last week — and converted a season-best eight third-down chances against the Blue Devils.
For now, first-year Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins likes the progress he’s seeing as the Yellow Jackets continue the retooling from the triple-option offense to a more modern spread formation.
“It’s going to be really scary around here when it does start clicking the way it’s going to,” Collins said.
The click isn’t audible quite yet.
Only 13 of the Jackets’ 77 possessions this season have gone for touchdowns. And while the numbers aren’t good, Collins is trying to get his team — a roster composed of mostly freshmen and sophomores — to take a deeper look at where it is in the process.
“Everything has improved,” Collins said. “I hate that the scoreboard doesn’t show it. I hate that the record book doesn’t show it. But every single phase of this football program has improved. There’s still a lot of work ahead of us. You can’t discount the monumental transformation that’s taking place.”
Here’s some of what to know going into Georgia Tech-Miami:
24 OR LESS
There are four teams out of the 130 at the FBS level who haven’t scored more than 24 points in a game yet this season, and Georgia Tech is one of them. The others: Connecticut, Old Dominion and Rice. The last time Georgia Tech went a full season without scoring more than 24 points in any game was 1981, when the Jackets beat then-No. 4 Alabama to open the year and went 0-10 the rest of the way.
Miami’s five-game homestand — its longest since a six-game run in 1987, including that season’s Orange Bowl — ends Saturday. The Hurricanes are 3-1 so far in this stretch. This wraps up the 24th such homestand in Miami history, and the Hurricanes were unbeaten in only three of them.
Georgia Tech is 127th among FBS teams in completion percentage, connecting on only 46.6% of its throws this season. Out of all the college football programs recognized by the NCAA — at the FBS, FCS, Division II and Division III levels, 93% have a better completion rate this season than the Yellow Jackets.
Even after being relatively well-behaved last week against Virginia (four penalties, two on one play), Miami still is committing the sixth-most penalties per game this season — averaging nine. Georgia Tech (4.17 per game) is committing the fifth-fewest nationally.
BEEN A WHILE
Georgia Tech enters four games under .500. The last time Miami lost to a team coming into a game that far below the break-even mark was the 2011 finale to Boston College (which entered 3-8). And the last time Miami was beaten by a team with a 1-5 record (or worse) this deep into a season was 1974, when the Hurricanes lost to a Florida State team that came into their meeting with an 0-8 record.