Week #2: University of Miami – Preview and Open Thread

This hasn’t been an easy game to preview. Part of me thinks Miami is going to come in to the Horseshoe and give Ohio State all it can handle. Part of me thinks this game is just a speed bump in the preparation for Big Ten play. That part of me saw what a physical, bruising line and running game can do to the Miami defense and what pressure can do to Jacory Harris. Is Miami Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde?

Maybe the one thing that makes me the most nervous (and will retroactively give me the most abundant joy) is the, shall we say, overconfidence of some of the Miami players (and they’re myopic, moronic fans). In terms of players, I’m of course referring to one specifically, Damien Berry

In terms of fans, the ignorance is staggering on multiple levels. Just check any random ESPN Miami/OSU article to plumb the depths of the Miami Fan Psyche. Even those that cover the ‘Canes are impossibly misinformed. I am obligated to link this but perhaps not obligated to comment because conversations with kindergartners that are not my son are boring. But here’s a shot. I was at the 2005 Texas game (you know, the one Vince Young said was the loudest crowd he’d ever heard) and I can assure you that the Horseshoe can be quite hostile. If you were there, you know what I mean.

But enough of that. The game is settled on the field. So let’s get to that.

At the moment, Ohio State is a 8.5 point favorite. The weather conditions do not look favorable for a clean game but could potentially favor the more physical, capable running team (read: Ohio State).

Depth charts: Miami’s, Ohio State’s (Oh, and there will be quite a few recruits at the game.)

What to watch

Both team’s running games: With crummy weather and ball control that Jim Tressel so desires, this may be the deciding factor in Saturday’s game. Ohio State seemed to run with little resistance against Marshall, racking up 280 yards. Both Brandon Saine and Jaamal Berry averaged over 11 yards a carry. The defensive resistance may have been minimal, but Miami had little or no resistance in their game and only managed 155 yards on 36 carries. I think we’d have to give Ohio State the advantage on the ground.

Special teams: Ohio State’s special teams were ghastly while Miami boasts the services of a pretty good kicking and punting game. Again, in the world of Tresselball, it isn’t very often that Ohio State could potentially be outplayed on Special Teams, but Miami punter/kicker Matt Bosher has a heck of a leg and is as reliable as they come.

Ohio State’s Defensive push: To me, anyway, it almost seemed like Ohio State’s defensive linemen weren’t super interested in Marshall. They knew they could get penetration at will and did just enough to make sure no one got through and the line of scrimmage was controlled.

That won’t be enough. Larimore played excellent against Marshall, so he’s already hit the game running. We’re going to need Penn State/Rose Bowl level Cameron Heyward and the rest of the line to get pressure early and often.

Back in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl, as soon as Will Smith got to Ken Dorsey (and knocked him down with one hand) I knew we had a chance. We had a monster line that year and we’ll need a similar performance on Saturday.

Miami’s Offensive Line: In a mirror image, watch to see how Miami’s line performs. They only return two starters and are relatively inexperienced at the other positions. Heyward and Larimore could have a field day with these guys.

As ATO points out, Miami’s offensive line has struggled to protect Harris. Last year they gave up 35 sacks, almost 3 a game. The line is being shuffled around with players playing new positions. While most linemen know and understand each other’s assignments and blocking schemes, moving around on the line isn’t always a smooth transition.

Who to watch

Jacory Harris: We’ll start with the obvious here. Questionable fashion choices aside, the ‘Canes go as Jacory goes. I think this kid is hard to figure out. He’s a clean cut, good looking kid and the media loves him. He gets a lot of hype and praise for being a “winner.” But if you look at last year’s stats, they really don’t bear that image out. No one threw more interceptions than Harris besides Javon Snead. He did throw 24 TDs, but that TD/INT ratio wasn’t any great shakes and neither was his completion percentage. I just don’t see what others see.

He’s got a good arm but he’s not quick or fast. Harris poses little or no threat to run (36 yards on 14 carries last year). Pressure also gets to him so that is going to be a huge key to the game.

Allen Bailey: Bailey is Miami’s 2009 sack leader and a heck of an athlete. He’s quick and is going to be a match-up problem for Ohio State’s offensive tackles.

Seantrel Henderson: Will there be a chance to even see Seantrel? The 7th Floor has a look at what he did in the FAMU game, but come on guys, it was FAMU. In my dreams, Cameron Heyward lines up against Seantrel and give’s him a Horseshoe-sized welcome.

Terrelle Pryor: Why? If I have to tell you, you’re at the wrong site.

Cameron Heyward: Ditto.

Things to consider

Randy Shannon has a decent record against the top 25 but when the ‘Canes are on the road, against top 25 teams, he’s 1-5. That one victory was against Florida State, which finished the season 7-6. That is pretty self-explanatory.

After struggling against top-10 teams for almost three years, Jim Tressel ripped off wins against three teams that finished in the top 10 at the end of the 2009 season.

I think Ohio State chances are pretty good on Saturday. I was actually surprised while I was doing research for this post that Ohio State is favored by so many points. So many things point to a good performance by the Buckeyes and a big letdown for Miami. But I’m still unsettled. This is a big game.

Why I’m nervous

Miami is always going to have great athletes and while we rail against the idea of “Southern Speed,” Miami still boasts some guys on their team that can fly. Buzz out of Miami is that Lamar Miller is one of those guys. Sure, he’s number three on the depth chart behind Damien Berry and Mike James, but just think about that for a second. They are going to test the Buckeyes down the field.

The aforementioned confidence also makes me nervous. The ‘Canes players are saying they are going to be intimidated by the ‘Shoe crowd. They talk the talk and if they can walk the walk, I’ll be popping Tums like candy.

Why I’m not nervous

I’ve already brought these points up earlier, but some of them bear repeating. If it comes down to quarterback play, I like our chances with Terrelle Pryor. I mentioned how Harris is simply not a threat to tuck the ball and run. Well, Pryor is. Pryor can go toe to toe with Harris through the air (his mechanics look so much better) but if the weather makes the passing game a liability, cackle to yourself with glee.

Again, those Miami rushing stats vs. FAMU are simply unimpressive. If Miami can’t run the ball against Ohio State, it could get ugly quick.

Finally, I sense some mind games going on here between coaches. Tressel is obviously not going to let any cats out of the bag, but he has already said that passing more is going to be a theme this season. Everything I’ve read has Miami preparing to stop the run first and worry about Pryor passing second. Evil Tressel has clueless Shannon right where he wants him.

Right now, I’m at about a 4.5 out of 10 on the worry-o-meter. I’m feeling really good about this game. How are you feeling? Are you with me or am I out of my gourd?

This week, we’re foregoing any other predictions and going straight with a score prediction. I say OSU 31 Miami 17. What say you?


  1. I’m thinking a defensive battle with a pick 6 to move the game in our favor, or a late pick to seal it. I say 24-17 for the good guys! I’m about 6 on the worry-o-meter just because Miami has nothing to lose(like a team in Jan 03?). Go Evil Tressel

  2. 35-9 ……….. nothing else to say.

  3. Red Devil EA says

    I’ve already said #97 has to have a big game. If there’s one thing that’s been missing from the Buckeyes since ’06 (one could argue ’05) it’s the bloodrageskullsmash to strangle the will out of an opponent. We all know about Jacory Harris’ deep balls (giggity) but if the good guys can stop the run and take away play-action, it’s over. I’m calling for an ’06 Fiesta Bowl Special…34-20. Maybe Laura Quinn can make LeBron a jersey.

  4. I’m fluctuating between great confidence and near total panic – my usual week-before-a-big-game ritual.

    I called it 27-20 OSU and I’m sticking with that. We should have success moving the ball, and be an absolute terror on defense (though they’ll still find ways to get the ball up the field).

  5. I’m nervous as hell. I was ridiculously (and unusually) optimistic when the Marshall game ended last week, but it’s been like 8 days since then.

    Buckeyes 24, Canes 22.

    *all predictions subject to change after the fact. The opinions of Bacon Ninja regarding the outcome of Ohio State games are purely hypothetical and do not necessarily represent his true feelings on the matter. In fact, for the purposes of supersition and jinx avoidance Bacon Ninja offers a generic prediction of Opponents 72, Ohio State 0 for every game this season, unless they are playing an SEC school in which case the prediction will change to Opponents 347, Ohio State negative 30.

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