The game two rabid fan bases have had marked on their calendar for years is finally upon us. Come 3:30 Saturday afternoon, the 'Shoe will be rocking.
Miami comes with a squad largely led by the highly-touted 2008 recruiting class plus junior quarterback Jacory Harris.
Ohio State players will walk into Ohio Stadium Saturday morning knowing their road to Glendale officially starts here, and that another big game loss will bring nothing but nasty reaction from their borderline insane fan base.
Newsflash: Miami’s defensive line is fast, physical and athletic. The star of the group, Allen Bailey (No. 57), is not only one of the top defensive line prospects for the 2011 NFL Draft, but has also killed an alligator with a shovel. Sheesh.
Ohio State’s offensive line is improved but questions still remain. The interior of left guard Justin Boren, center Michael Brewster, and right guard Bryant Browning are as solid as they come. Ohio State could have trouble with the edge rush (shocking, I know). Right tackle J.B. Shugarts hasn’t quite tapped his potential yet. And left tackle, Mike Adams, is consistently inconsistent.
Thus, OSU offensive line, better known as Block O, has to keep Terrelle Pryor off the ground. If they can keep the Miami defensive line to two sacks or less, OSU will find success on offense.
This next slide falls in with the previous one. But let me start with OSU’s resident rock star, Terrelle Pryor. There has been plenty of hoopla surrounding the growth of Pryor. While this is largely based on his Rose Bowl MVP performance, it is very reasonable to expect improved numbers for him and for Tressel to show more faith in his passing skills.
That may be put to the wayside for the Miami game.
If OSU isn’t effective running the ball with their running backs, which I think they won’t, that means Miami will drop more defenders into coverage. Pryor is going to need more than the Marshall game to get his confidence up, which is why I believe Tressel and offensive coordinator Jim Bollman will employ a Krenzelesque strategy of designed quarterback draws and sweeps, in an attempt to make Pryor more Vick than Manning.
However, once the game begins and the Miami defensive ends are breathing down his neck, Pryor will soon realize he’s going to have step up in the pocket, use a few milliseconds to scan the field and if nothing else fails, use his gifted athleticism and nose for the first down marker to keep the offense moving.
Given Miami’s perceived edge in pass offense, this would seem to be a good thing for the ‘Canes. Not so fast. Teams who run pro-style offenses usually struggle against OSU’s base 4-3 run defense.
Will Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple attempt to other ways to move the ball on the ground, probably running draws, sweeps, short passes, etc out of the shotgun? Of course.
However, the strength of this year’s Silver Bullets lies in the edge rushers and the sideline-to-sideline speed of the linebackers. I don’t believe Graig Cooper (although he looks unlikely to play, Lamar Miller & Co are destined for anything but short yardage.
Thus, Miami will be forced to throw more. That means Jacory Harris will often attempt to change pass plays and pass protections.
Throw in 105,000 screaming fans, a defense that knows the offense is one-dimensional and a quarterback who was second in the nation with 17 interceptions last year. All of that equates to a recipe for disaster.
Contrary to false reports, Miami did sell all of their 4,000 allotted tickets for the game. So there will be some ‘Cane fans in the corner of the North End Zone of the Horseshoe.
That’s about all the support they can expect to heart among the more than 100,000 other fans that will be cheering on the Buckeyes.
Here’s an interesting fact: the last time Miami played in front of a six-figure crowd was in 2002 in Neyland Stadium at Tennessee. Coach Randy Shannon downplayed the atmosphere to the Columbus Dispatch.
"You're not (awed) by it because of what we see when we go out," said. "You may see Alex Rodriguez or one of the Wayans brothers, or you may see Dwyane Wade. Those are big-name guys. When you go to places that are traditional like Ohio State, Michigan, places like that, you've been in awe already. I think that kind of helps us out."
I’ll agree with Shannon on this, I doubt his players will be awed, a lot of them are highly-rated recruits used to all sorts of pressure and high-profile environments. But there’s a difference between awe and apprehension. The ‘Shoe gift-wraps the Silver Bullets a few offensive procedure penalties during a big game like this due to the noise level in the stadium.
And although school in is not in session, the student allotment of tickets for this showdown sold out in minutes. Most of the current Buckeyes will be rocking and rolling in the South End Zone. The closer the game is down the stretch, the harder it will be for the Hurricanes to hear anything but the voices inside their head.
This game should very closely resemble last year’s USC game in which neither game had more than 315 total yards. I expect plenty of three-and-outs. Close games between two very good teams often come down to special teams and turnovers. I see this one differently. The Buckeyes will pull this one out because of the Vest.
Under Tressel, OSU is 81-6 when leading or tied at the half and 86-6 when leading or tied heading into the fourth quarter.
In last year’s game against the Trojans, the two teams were tied at half. OSU led 15-10 going into the fourth quarter, only to lose 18-15.
Same type of game, different result.
The 2010 team isn't overconfident like the 2006 team. They're confident. And I believe they'll win Saturday.
Final score: 27-16 Ohio State