With less than three days until College Football's Rematch of the Century, there is a familiar buzz in the air. On Saturday afternoon at 3:40 Eastern Standard Time, The Ohio State University will host The Miami Hurricanes at the Ohio Stadium (The Horseshoe). Currently, The Ohio State University is ranked #2 in every College Football pool while Miami of Florida is ranked anywhere from #11-#14. This will be the game in which The Ohio State University is judged upon for the remainder of the season. Junior Quarterback Terrelle Pryor will face a defensive front that is better than anyone he has faced thus far in his career.
January 3, 2003 is a date that holds an incredible significance for me personally. To date, it is the only day of my life a team of relevance from Ohio has won a championship. The build up to the Fiesta Bowl was unlike any other College Football game I could remember. The U, as they are so affectionately known had won 30 plus games in a row. Their roster was loaded with future NFL names like Tight End Kellen Winslow Jr., Running Back Willis McGahee (whose knee was blown to smitherines by TOSU's Will Allen), Wide Receiver Andre Johnson, Linebacker D.J. Williams, and even the late, great Safety Sean Taylor were just a few of the NFL prospects on the Miami roster. Compared to a Buckeye roster featuring names like Quarterback Craig Krenzel, Safety Donnie Nickey, Wide Receiver Chris Vance, and Safety Mike Doss, Miami's level of talent was off the charts. Of the 100 players who participated in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, an astounding 58 also participated in an NFL game. That's a number unmatched to this day in any College Football Bowl Game.
Maurice Clarett ran like a man possessed during this game. The enigmatic warrior and former Warren Harding High School Running Back scored the touchdown that put The Ohio State University ahead, with a lead that lasted until Todd Sievers 40 yard field goal in the 4th quarter, ending regulation at a score of 17-17. A personality similar to Clarett, Kellen Winslow Jr. caught a seven yard touchdown pass from Ken Dorsey in the first overtime after The Ohio State had deferred possession. The pressure was on and Craig Krenzel did not care. On 3rd and 14, Krenzel lobbed a pass to Running Back Maurice Clarett which was dropped. With the down being 4th and 14 yards to go Craig Krenzel became a hero to all Ohians as he completed a 17 yard pass to Michael Jenkins. Krenzel than ran for a one yard touchdown and Mike Nugent kicked the extra point to send the game to a 2nd Overtime.
The Ohio State University and Maurice Clarett shocked the world in the 2nd Overtime. Clarett scored on a hand off from the five, and Mike Nugent kicked the extra point making the score 31-24. The U drove down the field behind Dorsey and Winslow Jr. The famous Pass Interference call came on a pass from Dorsey to Andre Johnson, this gave Miami a 1st and goal from the 2 yard line. On the next three plays, The Ohio State Buckeye defense starring Dustin Fox, Cie Grant, and Will Smith held Miami to one yard. At this point, my house was shaking. Everyone was nervous, and nobody said a word. Miami Quarterback Ken Dorsey dropped back to pass and all of a sudden, a storm named Cie Grant slammed into his back as the pass was being thrown. Again, silence as the ball floated in the air, for what seemed like months. The pass was incomplete and Buckeye Nation went ballistic. The raw emotion of the events was unmatched to anything I've ever experienced. The Ohio State University had won The NCAA College Football National Championship. The moment was perfect. The next day students at my high school, myself included walked around with bags of chips adorned with the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl logo.
This coming Saturday is the rematch. Will it match the excitement of the National Championship Game that featured 37 starters who went on to play in the NFL? Absolutely not. This game will be full of excitement for Miami fans who want a small amount of revenge. Buckeye fans will also want to again reassure the College Football world that they are for real. Junior Terrelle Pryor will want to show the world that he's not a joke. Junior Jacory Harris and Senior Running Back Graig Cooper will want a shot to introduce themselves to the grand stage for the first time in their collegiate careers.
Both teams have a very different message to send on Saturday. With the home field and 100,000 Buckeye fans in the stadium, I'll pick The Ohio State University to win by at least a touchdown. Miami will play their game strong, but Terrelle Pryor, Boom Heron, Brandon "In" Sane, Ross Homan, Nathan Williams, and the rest of Buckeye Nation will send the Hurricanes back to Florida with the message "The State of Ohio Thanks You For Coming, Now Bring on the Big Ten."