The showdown is fast approaching between Ohio State and Miami, two historic programs coming off easy victories.
Miami pummeled Florida A&M, 45–0, while Ohio State dismantled Marshall, 45–7. Both teams look crisp and on top of their games, surely those games were merely a tune up for the September 11th meeting between the two.
There are many keys to winning this game on both sides, and many articles have been written about various aspects of the game. One of the biggest matchups will be Ohio State’s offense versus Miami's defense. Both units are loaded with talent and each unit is capable of controlling the game.
Here are the key matchups when the Miami defense is on the field, and what needs to happen in order for the Hurricanes to have a chance at victory.
1. Miami Secondary vs. Ohio State Receivers
Ohio State’s starting receivers DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher are highly underrated, both of these players are veteran experienced receivers capable of making big plays.
The Hurricanes defensive backs cannot underestimate the Ohio State passing game; it would be very easy for them to overlook the Buckeyes in this area. Ohio State ranked 104th nationally in passing in 2009, averaging 173.1 yards per game over the entire season.
The Ohio State passing game was used as a big play mechanism that was setup by their dominant running game, as defenses over-committed to the running game, and the Buckeyes would go over the top for big plays. The Miami Hurricanes ranked 31st in 2009 for defense against the run, surrendering 122.31 yards per game, so the opportunity will be there for Ohio State to draw Miami closer to the line with success in the running game.
Miami has one of the top corner backs in the country in Brandon Harris, and DeMarcus Van Dyke is solid on the other side. The Hurricanes have enough talent to contain the passing attack of the Buckeyes, but if Ohio State has success in the running game or Pryor scrambles for a lot of yardage, that talent will be negated in order to stop the run.
This will open opportunities to go over the top, so the key will be the University of Miami safeties Ray Ray Armstrong and Vaughn Telemaque staying disciplined and keeping the receivers in front of them.
2. Miami Defensive Line vs. Ohio State Offensive Line
The Hurricanes have a deep defensive line rotation, but they are going up against an experienced offensive line full of juniors and seniors.
Opponents totaled 23 sacks against this offensive line unit last season, and with the size and athletic ability of Terrelle Pryor, it will be difficult to record sacks. The Hurricanes almost need to abandon any thought of “sacking” him in the purest sense, and focus on containing him in the pocket and slowing down the running game.
The Buckeye’s offensive line does not need to hold blocks for long periods of time, they merely need to direct the Miami pass rushers away from prior to create running lanes for him, if he needs them. This is one of the main reasons this offense does not wow you with stats, and just get the job done because they block towards the strengths of their quarterback.
Last season, the Hurricanes defense ranked 43rd against the pass, surrendering 207.3 yards per game, and lacked a consistent pass rush all season.
The Hurricanes recorded eight sacks against FAMU in the first game, but will be facing a much better caliber of athlete this week. With Adewale Ojomo and Marcus Forston returning the depth will help the Hurricanes stay fresh on the defensive line, but they will have to prove they can stop the run, or at least slow it down.
The biggest task will be to keep Terrelle Pryor from getting to the outside and force him to scramble in the middle of the field where the linebackers and secondary will have a better chance to stop him.
3. Miami Linebackers vs. Ohio State Running Game
The Ohio State Buckeyes ranked 19th against the run in 2009, averaging 195.92 yards per game, with a bulk of those yards coming from Terrelle Pryor.
The Hurricanes linebacking core is traditionally undersized, sacrificing bulk for speed and athleticism, and this season the linebacking group has been the biggest question mark for the Hurricanes. They have Sean Spence returning from an injury, while Colin McCarthy is returning from a decent, but not great season.
The middle linebacker position is occupied by Kylan Robinson, for now, but it has been a revolving door during spring and fall practices.
With the Ohio State rushing attack being consistent, yet unpredictable because of the random yardage spurts of Pryor, it will be a difficult task for this group.
Hurricanes line backer Sean Spence had these comments about the match up with Pryor, “It's not just me—as a defense everyone has to execute and do their responsibility and we'll be fine," he told Miami.rivals.com.
Pryor is bigger and just as fast or faster than all the Hurricanes line backers, so it will have to be a group effort to stop him. The Hurricanes should be able to slow down Brandon Saine, but Pryor is going to be the puzzle they have to figure out. People using Jonathan Nesbit from Georgia Tech as a blueprint need to avoid that mistake—the Georgia Tech rushing attack is completely different, and the Hurricanes have looked horrible one season against Nesbit and great last year.
The option has a certain level of prediction to it, but Pryor’s running does not, even with the Hurricanes sideline to sideline speed, they are still going to need something to break for them.
Edge: Ohio State
Overall, this is going to be a chess match.
Will the Hurricanes keep a spy to watch Pryor, or play him straight up? Will the front four be stout enough up front to prevent the Ohio State offensive line from controlling the pass rush? Will Pryor be able to complete passes against the Miami secondary on a consistent basis?
All of these questions will be answered on Saturday, when these teams line up against each other in The Horseshoe.