After much anticipation, the grudge match between Ohio State and Miami is finally here. The lasting image of this game remains Terry Porter throwing a little yellow hankie on the field to give the Buckeyes second life. They took advantage and killed Miami's chances of a second straight National Championship in an early January 2003 all-timer of a game.
The stage is set, but there has to be a road laid out for victory as Ohio State attempts to hold off the 'Canes in a revenge scenario. Here are five keys to Ohio State beating Miami in the Horseshoe Saturday:
5. Jump on Miami Early
Home field is a huge advantage for teams like Ohio State. There will undoubtedly be over 105,000 fans packed into the Horseshoe just waiting for an excuse to make things difficult for the Hurricanes. The Ohio Stadium crowd is notorious for waiting for an excuse to cheer.
The start of a big game gives the mass of humanity the initiative to get loud, but they will need assistance by the team on the field to keep the decibel level up. If Ohio State can jump on Miami early, look for the crowd to be really rowdy, and really loud.
4. Turn Back the Clock
Ohio State has found a new identity over the last couple of games dating back to the Rose Bowl. All of a sudden, the pass is not a last resort, but is an equal part of the winning equation. The coaching staff of Ohio State would be wise to pop in the tape of the Champs Sports Bowl when Wisconsin handled Miami.
If they dissect that tape, they will see that Wisconsin beat Miami by being physical and putting a priority on running the ball. The result: Wisconsin beat up the "U" physically, controlled the tempo, and flew back to Madison with a win. Expect Ohio State to summon up the ghosts of sweater vest past and begin with a similar game plan.
3. Get Pressure on Jacory Harris
This is a no-brainer and almost always a part of what the defense of any team wants to do, but it is of paramount proportions in this game. Jacory Harris can be thought of as the alter ego of Terrelle Pryor. Most teams would much rather make Terrelle Pryor beat them with his arm and not flush him out of the pocket where he is very dangerous galloping with his long strides.
The opposite is true in regards to Jacory Harris. In order to slow down the Miami skill players, Ohio State must force Harris out of the pocket by collapsing the pocket so that he doesn't stay in his element and have time to pick out receivers. Make no mistake about it: Jacory Harris is agile, but where he benefits his team the most is by slinging the ball around the field.
2. Win the Turnover Margin
It is a cliche but worth mentioning. The main path to a victory for an underdog is winning the turnover margin. Most would agree that Ohio State at home as the No. 2 team in the country is the favorite.
If both teams play like they are capable, Ohio State should be able to hear the victory bell ringing just after the alma mater is bellowed out. If, however, Pryor throws some picks, or the committee of running backs puts the ball on the turf, the pendulum could most certainly swing towards the Hurricanes' favor.
1. Have a "Special" Kind of Day
The special teams were awful for the Buckeyes in the opener. As the competition level goes up, the ability to win the special teams battle becomes even more important. Often a missed field goal here, or booted coverage on a kickoff or punt can be the difference between a big loss and a huge win.
Ohio State must take advantage of field goal opportunities and not give away additional field position or things could be sour in Columbus come Saturday evening.
The day has arrived for the next big game for the Ohio State program, and another chance to make an impression. It is time to welcome the South Florida swagger into town and turn this grudge match into a mismatch. Doing well in these five areas will determine whether this hurricane is a category five, or whether the Miami Hurricanes can be downgraded to a tropical depression