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GAME NOTES: Luke Fickell leads his 17th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes into this weekend's non-conference clash with Al Golden's Miami-Florida Hurricanes.
Fickell was hired to replace Jim Tressel and after crushing Akron by a 42-0 final in the season opener, the Buckeyes took on a second consecutive Mid- American Conference foe last weekend when Toledo traveled to Columbus. Fickell's group got a far stiffer challenge than most excepted, but Ohio State managed to escape with a 27-22 victory. The Big Ten slate begins on October 1, and there is still much work to be done to prepare for what promises to be a difficult slate.
Golden accepted the Miami job this past off-season and learned shortly after that the program was being investigated for major rules violations involving improper benefits from a booster. The Hurricanes played the opener against Maryland without many key players and fell in that ACC battle by a 32-24 final.
"We had enough talent to win tonight. We just didn't do it," Golden said. "I thought we were ready to go. We made too many mistakes. You make that many mistakes, you can't win."
Now, with many of the standouts back in the fold and nearly two weeks to prepare, the 'Canes will attempt to even their record this weekend.
Ohio State took a 2-1 series lead over Miami with a 36-24 victory over the Hurricanes last season.
Through two games, Ohio State has played well offensively, posting 34.5 ppg and 409.0 total ypg. First-year starter Joe Bauserman is the team's leader under center and has completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 352 yards and four touchdowns with no interception, a level of efficiency that has to make the coaches feel secure. Jake Stoneburner has four receiving touchdowns already despite the fact that he has only made eight grabs. As for the ground attack, Carlos Hyde has two touchdowns and 169 yards to his credit.
Against Toledo, Bauserman hooked up with Stoneburner on the game's first drive for a 26-yard touchdown. Hyde ran for the game-winning score with 3:17 remaining in the third quarter, and he also had a 36-yard touchdown scamper in the second. The fact that OSU averaged a mere 3.3 yards per rushing attempt in the tilt was clearly disappointing, as was the fact that the team finished a mere 3-of-12 on third-down conversion attempts.
Defensively, Ohio State is allowing 11.0 ppg and 214.0 total ypg. Against the run, the Buckeyes are permitting a mere 40.5 ypg at a clip of 1.4 yards per carry. The pass defense has been strong as well, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete fewer than 50 percent of their passes.
On a positive note, Ohio State was strong against the run in the win over Toledo, limiting the Rockets to 46 yards on 30 attempts. While the pass defense permitted only 21-of-42 Rocket tosses to be completed, those connections went for 292 yards and two touchdowns. Clearly, fewer big plays can be permitted this week if the Buckeyes hope to remain undefeated.
"It was an ugly game, but we made plays when we had to," said Ohio State linebacker Andrew Sweat. "Today we had to dig down deep and have toughness. These are the types of games you see what type of player you are and learn from."
Miami gets quarterback Jacory Harris back just in time to challenge the Buckeye defense. Harris, who served a suspension to start the season, is still under investigation by the NCAA, but he is currently eligible to play and will do just that. While somewhat enigmatic, Harris clearly has the talent and experience to handle the pressure this weekend.
Against Maryland, Stephen Morris was the starting signal caller for Miami and finished with 195 yards on 19-of-28 passing efficiency. Unfortunately, he failed to throw a touchdown and tossed two interceptions to go along with a lost fumble, an obvious contributing factor in the setback. Lamar Miller was impressive running the football, generating 119 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
Just as the Miami defense gets Harris back, the quarterback of the defense, linebacker Sean Spence, returns from suspension as well. Without Spence in the opener, Miami was victimized for 499 total yards. Surprisingly, however, a 10- yard touchdown pass was the only TD permitted to the Terrapin offense all afternoon. Still, coach Golden couldn't look past the huge yardage total.
"We had enough (players) on this trip to win this game," Golden said. "But you can't give up that many yards, no matter who is in the game."
Golden will have his team ready to play, but a win in Columbus is unlikely. The Buckeyes aren't loaded with offensive stars as in years past, but they will play well enough in all three phases to win.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Ohio State 27, Miami-Florida 20