A fter opening the season with a convincing 42-0 win over hapless Akron, it seemed fairly reasonable to believe the Buckeyes (2-0) would not have too much trouble dispensing the Toledo Rockets in week two.
Toledo, an experienced and veteran squad, returned 18 starters from their 2010 team -- including superstar WR Eric Page -- yet, the Buckeyes were favored to win by 19.5 points.
In reality, the game was much too close for comfort. Toledo was not intimidated, and fully expected to compete, and win the game.
In the end, the Big Ten's top defense bent, but did not break, and stopped Toledo's final -- and potential game-winning -- drive in the final two minutes, securing the 27-22 victory/escape.
In 2002, on their way to 14 wins, including a BCS national title, the Buckeyes won seven games by 7 or less points. Winning close, and sometimes winning ugly, is better than losing any day of the week.
As for Miami (0-1), the Canes had an off-week to lick their wounds and prepare for Ohio State after opening the season in defeat on the road at Maryland, 32-24.
On a kind of cool/kind of hideous side note:
Seeing the Maryland "state-flag" jersey was like seeing two Arena League teams merge, and then not be able to agree on which jersey to keep going forward, so instead, they decided to take half a jersey from each team to form the new team's jersey -- OR -- Perhaps they resemble a CFL team sponsored by a taxi-cab company?
Brief Game Outlook
As programs go, there are a lot of similarities between Ohio State and Miami.
Both have at least five national titles (OSU 7, Miami 5).
Each school boasts a who's-who list of national award winners, and both programs have sent multiple players to the NFL.
Oh, and you may have heard something this off-season about both schools being under investigation by the NCAA regarding players that have received improper benefits.
While the off-the-field infractions that occurred at Ohio State are very serious and are likely to warrant additional sanctions from the NCAA on top of those already self-imposed by the university, those at Miami could include a lack of institutional control charge, and all-totaled, could potentially be deemed as death-penalty level violations.
As for the game this Saturday night, it's a bit of a toss-up.
Last week, freshman QB Braxton Miller was expected to play against Toledo, but never saw the field. Instead, senior Joe Bauserman played the entire game, and while Bauserman didn't turn the ball over, he also did little-else to help lead the Buckeyes to victory.
This Saturday, against a speedy and athletic team like Miami, Coach Fickell might want to strongly consider playing Miller. Not only can Miller move well in the pocket and scramble away from pressure if needed (a la Terrelle Pryor), but he also possesses excellent passing mechanics and a strong, accurate arm (a la NOT Terrelle Pryor).
Jordan Hall (RB), Travis Howard (DB), and Corey Brown (DB) will be reinstated by game time. Miami QB Jacory Harris has also been given the all-clear and will start for the Canes. In all, the Buckeyes still have four players (including 3 starters) out due to suspension -- certainly an edge in favor of Miami.
Last season in Columbus, Miami scored two special teams touchdowns, but the Buckeye defense pressured Harris into four costly interceptions, and held the Canes offense to just 10 points en route to a 36-24 win.
Harris will look to improve upon his poor performance and breath some life into the Canes passing game that was somewhat lacking in their opener.
Miami RB Lamar Miller played well in the losing effort against the Terps, rushing for 119 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown.
For the Bucks -- running back Hall may have to earn his spot back -- so expect Carlos Hyde to start his third straight game. Rod Smith or Jaamal Berry should also get some touches, although Smith has had two untimely fumbles in two games -- generally a sure-fire way to find yourself on the sidelines more often than not.
Freshman receiver Devin Smith leads OSU with 119 yards on 5 catches and has one touchdown reception. TE Jake Stoneburner has been the Buckeyes' most consistent and reliable receiver so far this season with eight grabs for 93 yards, including four for touchdowns -- two more than he had all of last season. Converted high school QB Verlon Reed is third on the team with five receptions for 89 yards.
Ultimately, look for the 2011 game to be decided much the same as the 2010 contest -- by turnover margin and in the trenches. The team that best protects the ball and the quarterback, and opens up the running lanes for their tailbacks should come away with the "W".
Current FBS Team Rankings
Ohio State—Miami History Lesson
• This will be the 5th all-time meeting between Ohio State and Miami.
• Ohio State is 3-1 against Miami (including the vacated win from 2010).
• Ohio State is 15-7 all-time vs. ACC opponents.
• Ohio State is 32-16 all-time in night games, including a 17-6 mark on the road.
• Ohio State is 42-8 vs. non-conference opponents since 2001.
• Ohio State has held opponents to fewer than 10 points 30 times since 2006.
• Ohio State's defense has allowed just four 100-yard rushers in their last 39 games.
• Ohio State has 821 wins all-time, the fifth-most among FBS teams.
• The last Buckeye head coach to win his 1st first road game was Earle Bruce, a 21-17 win at Minnesota in 1979.
• Miami is 23-2 in home openers since 1986.
• Miami is 1-3 vs Big Ten opponents since 2001, having lost their last three.
• Miami is 49-15 overall at home since 2001.
• Since joining the ACC in 2004, Miami is 14-1 at home vs. OOC opponents.
• Miami is 5-14 overall against ranked teams since 2006.
• Miami is 3-5 at home vs. ranked teams since 2006.
• Miami has won four straight home openers (2007-2010) by an average of 34 ppg.
• Miami coach Al Golden is 1-12 vs. BCS teams in his career.
Final Thoughts and Score Prediction
Both teams need a win -- Miami, to avoid an 0-2 start, and Ohio State, to prove last weeks scare against Toledo was a fluke and that they are deserving of their top 20 ranking.
The Canes rarely lose in home openers, but the 23 wins in 25 games since 1986 have mostly not been against teams the caliber of the Buckeyes.
Both teams have question marks on offense, but defensively, Ohio State gets the edge.
If there is an area of concern for OSU, it's the young secondary of the Buckeyes, however, Jacory Harris has yet to prove he can consistently play well and protect the ball -- see 2010 in Columbus -- and there are several up-and-coming defensive backs (including Bradley Roby and Dominic Clarke) on the rise for Ohio State.
Expect the Buckeye defense to contain Miller and the running game and to pressure Harris into a repeat of last years meeting -- and a similar game result.
Ohio State 31
"To be a champion, you have to believe in yourself when no one else will" - Sugar Ray Robinson
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