A look at five important issues that will affect the Ohio State-Miami game.
1. Safety Play. Because of Marshall's inability to block the Buckeye defensive line, the new starters at safety were not tested vertically in the opening game of the season. Senior Jermale Hines has played plenty at the "Star" position, which holds responsibilities similar to a nickelback in Ohio State's defense, but he has not had many game reps as a true safety. Sophomore C.J. Barnett has not seen many game reps, period. His youth will be something to key in on early; does it affect his composure? It would be a good bet that the Miami offense will test the sole question mark on the Buckeye defense early, which leads us to #2.
2. Miami's offensive gameplan. Against Florida A & M, Miami debuted a new no-huddle offense that was not seen last season. Is it gamesmanship, as I believe, or is it the base offense that Miami offensive coordinator Mark Whipple is implementing this season? The style that Miami employs could have a ripple effect on the tempo of the game. Do they force the Buckeyes into an up-tempo game?
3. Miami's retooled offensive line versus the experienced Buckeye defensive line. Even today, it is not clear what combination Miami will use on the offensive line on Saturday. After losing experienced left tackle Jason Fox to graduation, Miami was faced with a dilemma. They answered it by shifting their starting guards last season to both tackle positions, while introducing relatively inexperienced players to the interior. It's an untraditional move by most standards- usually you will see tackles shift to guard- but it's a move that worked well in the season opener, albeit against an FCS team.
4. Early Emotions. This Miami team has had this game on their minds for a long time, and it will be interesting to see how they handle those emotions in an atmosphere like the Horseshoe. Will they allow their emotions to negatively impact their play, or will they harness them to provide an early adrenaline boost? On the other sideline, how will the Buckeyes handle the atmosphere? As the team more experienced in big games, it would appear that this would be old hat for the Buckeyes, but it is hard to predict how emotions can take hold of a team once a game begins.
5. Schematically, keep an eye on how the Buckeyes defend the Miami offense. It can be difficult to see what a team is doing on television, but try to keep an eye on where the safeties are playing, when you can. If the Buckeyes are predominantly keeping two safeties in the deep middle of the field, it most likely means they are unthreatened by the Miami running game and can afford to keep their safeties deep to protect against the vertical passing game. If the Buckeyes can get away with stopping the Miami rushing attack without committing the safeties to run support, it will be a good sign for Buckeye fans. Much of Mark Whipple's play-action passing game is designed to take advantage of space in the secondary, and if the Buckeyes can take away that space they will effectively be taking away Miami's avenue of generating explosive plays.