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Miami looks to break Tech's hex

CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Miami offensive lineman Reggie Youngblood knows time is running out to cross certain things off his to-do list before leaving the Hurricanes.

The senior still hasn't gotten a league championship ring. Hasn't been part of a 10-win season. Hasn't experienced a Bowl Championship Series game, either.

Those are big goals, for certain, but one thing on Youngblood's list gets top billing this week.

'I've never beaten Georgia Tech,' Youngblood said.

From the 23rd-ranked Hurricanes' perspective, perhaps it's The Curse of the Yellow Jackets, whom they'll visit Thursday night. Since Miami began Atlantic Coast Conference play in 2004, every matchup against Georgia Tech has left a bad taste in the Hurricanes' mouths.

Since 1927, only six schools - Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Notre Dame, Stetson and Virginia Tech - can say they've beaten the Hurricanes four times in four years. So clearly, it's rare for any Miami graduating class to experience a skein like that.

And Youngblood is desperate to avoid knowing what an 0-for-4 feels like.

'I've already told a few of my teammates this week, since I've been here, they've been beating us,' Youngblood said. 'So I really want this game, real bad.'

As if a victory wouldn't be enough of a reward, figuring out a way to snap the Yellow Jackets' hex would come with plenty of added bonuses for the Hurricanes.

Beating Georgia Tech (7-3, 4-3) would put Miami (7-3, 4-2) on the cusp of winning its first ACC Coastal Division title, move the Hurricanes closer to that 10-win plateau they last experienced in 2003, and keep them positioned to play in a BCS game - the Orange Bowl - for the first time since Jan. 1, 2004.

'This is just like Week 1 for us,' said Miami center Xavier Shannon, the son of Hurricanes' head coach Randy Shannon. 'We just want to win football games. We're not thinking about anything else.'

Good thing, because thinking about recent history might scare the heck out of the Hurricanes.

The lone Miami win in the series since joining the ACC came with a big price: The Hurricanes beat Georgia Tech in 2004, but lost left tackle Eric Winston to a major knee injury in the fourth quarter and soon saw their championship hopes slip away.

It's only gotten worse since.

Georgia Tech stunned the then No. 3-ranked Hurricanes in 2005, 14-10 - robbing Miami of ACC title hopes and starting a slide where it lost a staggering 14 of 20 league games. In 2006, Miami lost 30-23, and last year, the Hurricanes got outgained 244-79 in the second half in a 17-14 defeat at the Orange Bowl.

The Yellow Jackets say those wins won't lend themselves to overconfidence.

'They got a lot of different players, we've got different players,' Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. 'I think we've had success against them defensively for the last couple of years. Last year was a hard-fought game down there. I think Tech won by a field goal. So, I wouldn't put too much stock into that.'

They haven't been blowouts, but the defeats have been painful nonetheless for Miami, which has won five straight games overall but is a four-point underdog in most Las Vegas books this week.

And if Georgia Tech is feeling comfortable this week, that's fine, said Miami running back Javarris James.

'These guys come out, they play us real well, and from the past these guys have a lot of confidence in themselves playing against the University of Miami,' said James, who rushed for 113 yards against Georgia Tech as a freshman but was held to minus-6 yards last season. 'It's a big game for all of us.'

Maybe no one more than Youngblood, who'll start at right tackle this week and is playing hurt. He was offered the chance to redshirt by Miami's coaches several weeks ago and come back in 2009, but Youngblood declined, saying he believed this team could win that elusive league title.

Thursday's outcome may very well decide if Youngblood will play for that ACC ring.

'We've had some conversations about it,' offensive lineman A.J. Trump said. 'Everyone knows this game is huge. It can't get any bigger than this, so I'm sure it's very important to him because we haven't beaten Georgia Tech yet. In 2005, they took a whole lot from us and we're looking forward to taking it back.'