A much-anticipated matchup between the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and the 12th-ranked Miami-Florida Hurricanes will ensue in Columbus on Saturday afternoon.
As expected, Miami cruised to victory over Florida A&M in the opener, besting the overmatched Rattlers by a 45-0 final. The Hurricanes played that game on Thursday, September 2nd, so they have had just as much time as the Buckeyes to prepare for this week's showdown. Miami was a program in despair when Randy Shannon took over four years ago, but the well-regarded coach has restored the 'Canes to respectability. In 2009, Shannon guided his team to the program's best mark since the 2005 at 9-4, including 5-3 versus ACC competition.
"Games are games, and they go and come," said Shannon, failing to buy into the hype of this showdown. "You just have to enjoy the times you play in them and keep moving on."
As for Ohio State, it cruised to a 45-7 victory over Marshall last Thursday to kick off a campaign full of lofty expectations.
"It's going to be a more difficult world next week," Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said, acknowledging the spike in competition that Miami represents.
The Buckeyes are now 10-0 in season openers under Tressel, and they have won 55 consecutive regular season non-conference home games against unranked teams. They are one of just three teams to post 10 or more wins in five consecutive seasons and are loaded on both sides of the ball this year.
Ohio State has won two of the three all-time meetings with Miami, including a thrilling victory in 2003 that decided the national championship.
Many believe that Miami's fortunes this season rest solely on the arm and legs of quarterback Jacory Harris. If the opener is any indication, the 'Canes are in for a successful campaign. Against Florida A&M, Harris connected on 12- of-15 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior Leonard Hankerson caught six passes for 115 yards and a career-best two touchdowns for the Hurricanes, while Damien Berry also caught a TD pass. Lamar Miller carried the ball 11 times for 65 yards and a score for Miami, which also got a rushing touchdown from Mike James.
"Individually, we had some guys who did a lot of great things out there today," Miami coach Randy Shannon said. "For the most part, it shows what kind of team we have."
Defensively, Miami was simply dominant against Florida A&M, allowing just 110 yards in the clash. The run defense was stifling, holding the Rattlers to 52 yards on 39 attempts. Clearly, a high total of eight sacks amounting to 62 yards in losses was a major factor in the impressive stats. Olivier Vernon was downright unstoppable, as the sophomore defensive end posted 3.5 sacks in the tilt. He also finished with seven total tackles to lead the 'Canes. Miami came up with just one takeaway, but the most important number of all from that contest is zero, the amount of points scored by the opposition.
Ohio State racked up 529 total yards in the romp over Marshall in the opener, and there was tremendous balance established between the run and the pass. The Buckeyes posted 280 rushing yards at a clip of 6.8 yards per carry, and Brandon Saine posted 103 yards on just nine carries with two touchdowns.
As for the passing game, Terrelle Pryor looked the part of a Heisman candidate. The junior signal caller, who is under constant scrutiny, completed 17-of-25 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns with zero interceptions. DeVier Posey scored on two of his four catches, and Dane Sanzenbacher posted 113 yards and a score on three grabs.
Defensively, Ohio State played quite well against Marshall, limiting the Thundering Herd to 199 total yards, including 44 rushing yards. The only points scored by Marshall came on a return of a blocked field goal, so that play obviously can't be pinned on the defense, which is considered one of the nation's most talented groups.
Linebacker Brian Rolle is one of the stars of the Ohio State defense, and he returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown. He quickly turned his attention to the Hurricanes after that tilt.
"You get the feeling that team feels like they're back on the rise like they were in the early 2000s," said Brian Rolle of Miami. "We've got to play our brand of football, and at the end of the game next week we'll be able to assess where we are."
Miami expects to prove that it is an elite team, but the fact is that Ohio State is more talented than the 'Canes and has the obvious advantage of playing at home. Expect Pryor and company to get the job done in impressive fashion.