The Ohio State Buckeyes host the Miami Hurricanes at the Horseshow on Saturday afternoon in a quasi-rematch of the 2002 National Championship game. Eight years have passed since the Buckeyes won their most recent National Title, but none of the fervor between the fan bases has died down.
Miami fans think Ohio State stole their title thanks to a bogus pass interference call by a renegade referee. Ohio State fans, on the other hand, have had their hands full cheering for their team on the way to other National Championship appearances and BCS bowl wins.
Will this game finally give Miami fans closure? Will the Buckeyes go 3-1 in the all-time series versus "Da U?"
Pass Interference or What?
Miami Fans: Which call would you prefer to lose on: 1) defensive holding on a Chris Gamble incompletion and thus a first down, 2) a reception for a first down by Chris Gamble which was incorrectly called incomplete, 3) defensive holding against Chris Gamble on the same play as the infamous pass interference, or 4) the pass interference itself?
Unbiased fans will testify that there was holding and there was contact while the ball was in the air.
The question is: “If it wasn’t called all game, why call it then?" The answer is: “Because it was the necessary time to call it.” With a game, and thus a season, on the line, it isn’t a time to swallow a whistle. Chris Gamble was held up and down the field all night, but none of the calls would have directly sent the teams to the locker rooms.
Whether the penalty should have been defensive holding or pass interference (both happened), the flag is a redo of play (albeit with a fresh set of downs).
The game needs to end on a play that doesn’t cause controversy.
And it did, on 4th and 1 from the Ohio State one-yard line.
My, How They Have Fallen
You don’t need ESPN to tell you that the 2001 and 2002 Hurricanes were among the top 10 teams of the BCS era. But they will. Then a funny thing happened to Miami: They became irrelevant.
After a few close losses led to a 9-3 season in 2004 and a 9-2 season in 2005, the wheels really fell of in a 40-3 smackdown by LSU in the 2005 Peach Bowl.
The Hurricanes lost more of their wind in LOL-worthy seasons of 7-6 and 5-7 in 2006 and 2007, when they became more notorious for literally stomping fools rather than figuratively stomping them on the scoreboard.
Around the same time (except for whatever that was in 2004), the Buckeyes were busy beating Michigan, winning Big Ten championships, and playing for National Championships.
The two programs that will meet in Shoe on Saturday have been moving in opposite directions since they last met in Tempe.
But Randy Shannon has righted that ship and has issued a Hurricane warning?
Miami has lost six games and four games in seasons under Shannon’s watch. He’s packed the team full of South Florida’s best, and ESPN always tells me the South knows how to play football, but it just hasn’t translated.
So will this be the season?
Even the dominant Hurricanes of the early 2000s didn’t have to knock off top-ranked opponents: “The Hurricanes have not beaten a team ranked No. 1 or No. 2 on the road since 1991, when they were No. 2 and won 17-16 at Florida State.”
Same at Eleven Warriors also points out that the Hurricanes are 2-9 against ranked foes under Randy Shannon. It’s a tall task for
Miami to upset the Buckeyes on a gray Saturday afternoon in Columbus. Miami players talk a big game and will celebrate after every incompletion, but "the swag" doesn’t have "the bite."
2 x J12 = 24 INTs
Much has been made about the quarterback showdown between two potential Heisman Trophy candidates, Terrelle Pryor and Jacory Harris. Both have had their ups and downs leading up to their junior season showdown.
The Buckeyes have isolated Pryor from being the reason why Ohio State loses games, save for the Purdue game last season, in the purest meaning of the term Tresselball.
Harris has put up gaudier passing statistics than Pryor, thanks to the offensive system installed by ex-NFL offensive coordinator Mark Whipple. When it’s going good, it’s good. When it’s not, well, it is for the other team.
Jacory Harris has thrown 24 picks in his first two seasons starting for the Hurricanes,
including 7 in 2008 and 17 in 2009. A thumb injury in 2009 is the No. 1 excuse used by Canes fans, but the reality is that Harris’ decision making and Whipple’s system led to the turnovers.
Mark Whipple is a strong play caller, but almost independently of how his quarterback is performing. Harris threw a pick in all but four games last season and had five multi-interception games. Jacory Harris has also been described as "a cool customer" under pressure. In 2009, he was probably "cooler" than the coaching staff would have liked, getting sacked a ridiculous 34 times.
A turnover might not hurt against middling ACC opponents, but there are few teams that are better at capitalizing on mistakes than the Buckeyes. Not only has Ohio State been close to the top in turnover margin, the Buckeye offense also performs best when coming off of a turnover. The Buckeyes should do a little more on the defensive front than in the Marshall game with hopes of confusing Miami.
If Harris is forced into another multiple interception game, Miami’s only chance is a special teams play.
Ohio State entered the red zone 4 times against Marshall and came away with three and one field goal.
That’s 100 percent for those of you counting at home.
The key to the Miami game will be execution in the red zone and, like last week, turning those almost certain three-pointers into seven.
Oregon, Ohio State’s last BCS opponent, forced four field goals (not all red zone attempts, however) which turned what could have been a blow out into a 26-17 game.
Poe’s Prediction: Ohio State 33 – Miami 13
What Miami brings to the table isn’t anything that Ohio State hasn’t seen. With all the talk of athleticism and speed, Canes fans would have you believe that Willis McGahee and Kellen Winslow Jr will be lining up in Ohio Stadium this Saturday.
They won’t be.
Arguably, neither team is as talented as their counterpart that took the field in Tempe for the season finale nearly eight years ago.
However, the Buckeyes are closer thanks in part to an improved offense lead by Terrelle Pryor and a defense that has been consistently stingy since that January night.
In the opposite corner, the Hurricanes are the epitome of unrealized potential, highlighted most by their top recruiting rankings and lackluster seasons under Randy Shannon.
Tom Dienhart of Rivals.com thinks the Buckeyes will run at the Hurricanes to set up the play action. “The Buckeyes will be physical on offense, running right at the speed of Miami and setting up play-action passes for Terrelle Pryor.”
Thanks Tom, apparently you’ve watched an Ohio State game before. That’s what they do.
The real surprise is if they do something like what we saw against Oregon and against Marshall. Miami is by far the most talented on defense of that trio, so don’t expect Ohio State to be completely wide open on offense.
Buckeyes prevail by executing and converting drives for points, while the U finds out what Oregon found out in January: The only known constant in college football is the Ohio State defense.