When Ohio State has the ball...
It is no secret to anyone familiar with Ohio State. The Buckeyes are going to give the ball to Maurice Clarett and need him to have a big game. Clarett should be close to 100% at the start of the game and needs to stay healthy. If Clarett's shoulder acts up on him again, forcing him to leave the game early, the Buckeyes are in a world of hurt. If Clarett can stay healthy, the game plan will likely be to try to get Clarett the ball 30+ times.
The Miami defense has had problems against the run this year, and hasn't fared well against big backs. Florida State's big bruiser, Greg Jones, lit the Hurricane defense up for 189 yards earlier this year. Pittsburgh's Brandon Miree, who weighs 235 pounds, went over 100 yards against Miami. The Miami defense likes to play their safeties deep and let their front seven handle the run, but they may not be able to do this against Ohio State. With super-quick ends in Jamal Green and Jerome McDougal, Miami's defensive line is actually prone to holes for an opposing back to run through with the Miami ends getting around the opposing tackles so quickly. The Buckeyes will, no doubt, try to exploit this. This is the "good" for Ohio State.
The "bad" for Ohio State is overall match-up in this trench: Ohio State's somewhat stiff offensive line vs. Miami's extremely athletic defensive line. This match-up reminds some of the OSU - Florida State game in the 1998 Sugar Bowl that saw FSU's defensive front manhandle an overmatched Ohio State O-line. That night, OSU rarely had success run blocking or pass blocking which in turn led to a 31-14 to the Seminoles.
Ohio State should have more success running against the 'Cane defense than they did the FSU defense in '98, but the pass protection could be a major problem for Ohio State. The Miami defense recorded 46 sacks this year while the Buckeyes surrendered 31 sacks on the season. OSU quarterback Craig Krenzel is going to have to be given some time to throw the ball; the Buckeyes cannot beat Miami by pounding the ball with Clarett each and every play.
Passes to the tight end, slants, and dump-offs to the backs are plays that can hurt Miami's aggressive defense, but unfortunately for OSU, these are far from bread and butter plays for the Buckeye offense. The draw is another play that can hurt the UM defense and this could be a big weapon for Ohio State and Maurice Clarett.
Bottom Line - Ohio State is going to try to establish the run and run the clock. That is what got them here and this seems to be the best strategy against a Miami defense that has had some trouble stopping the run. Ohio State will probably try to mix things up a little more than usual because they know they have to against a Miami defense with this much talent. But Ohio State is going to have to go with some short drops by Krenzel where he gets rid of the ball early. Krenzel absolutely cannot stay in the pocket long against this Miami defense, or he will take a beating. Look for a few, but not many, new wrinkles from the OSU offense. The OSU coaches know that Miami has the #1 rated pass defense in the country and know that Maurice Clarett can run the football as well as anyone in the country. This makes the OSU offensive game plan (from a high level standpoint, anyway) pretty simplistic.
Players/match-ups to watch - OSU offense vs. Miami defense
Maurice Clarett - The Buckeye TB is Miami's number one concern. He steps it up in big games and can run over you, around you or through you.
Craig Krenzel - The Buckeye QB has to make good decisions like he has most of the time this year. His scrambling ability could be a big asset against this aggressive Miami defense that drops it's safeties.
Michael Jenkins - If Miami can take Jenkins out of the game for the most part, then OSU is in trouble. Jenkins is Krenzel's go-to guy and has to make some plays.
OSU's tackles (Shane OIivea and Ivan Douglas) and Miami's ends (Jamal Green and Jerome McDougal) - Miami's ends are already licking their chops about their match-up against the Ohio State tackles that have had less than stellar years. The Buckeye tackles have to play their best game of the year or they are in trouble against these two.
Jonathan Vilma - The Miami middle linebacker is one of the best in the business and can really disrupt an offense. Ohio State will have to account for him.
Vince Wilfork - Miami's massive defensive tackle may not "officially" be a starter, but Wilfork will play a lot. Wilfork had 12 tackles for losses this year and can flat out manhandle opposing linemen. Wilfork is listed at 350 pounds, and that seems very generous.
Antrel Rolle - Rolle is a future All-American corner who is well on his way. He is very athletic and an excellent cover-man.
When Miami has the ball...
Contrary to what some may think, Miami's offensive scheme is pretty basic. It definitely isn't Steve Spurrier's offense and Head Coach Larry Coker has shown us that it does not have to be. Miami's offense just beats teams
with speed and talent, pure and simple. They have a quarterback who is 38-1 as a starter and can throw the ball. They have a tailback that can take it the distance, run through the tackles, catch passes and do just about anything. They have a receiver, André Johnson, who can run a sub-4.3 40 despite the fact that he is 220+ pounds. They have the premier tight end in the country in Kellen Winslow Jr. And the Hurricane offensive line may be the best in the land. This is what the Buckeye defense has to
On the other side of the coin, this 'Cane offense will be facing the best defense they have seen all year. This is a Buckeye defense that has given up just 2 TD's in 22 quarters. Have you heard this stat on ESPN and other
sports news much? Certainly not, but you surely have heard about the 'Canes unstoppable offense. In the second half, Ohio State's defense has absolutely dominated their opponents. Illinois is the only Buckeye opponent in the last seven games to have scored more than a field goal
against Ohio State in the second half. Ohio State has stopped the run all year, and although they have given up some passing yards, this defense hasn't given up many points. Washington State's high powered offense
scored 7 points on Ohio State. Texas Tech's high powered offense was shut down by Ohio State. The Buckeyes lead 38-7, before settling back in more of a prevent mode and substituting freely. This is what the Hurricane offense has to contend with.
So, where does that leave us? Miami is going to get the ball to their star tailback Willis McGahee. They are going to throw the ball to Kellen Winslow. And they are going to wide receiver André Johnson often. Ohio State is going to likely play the same defense they have played for most of
the year. They won't blitz a lot. They'll line up Mike Doss all over the field and will send him on occasion. They will likely play Dustin Fox on the WR lined up to the short side of the field and let Chris Gamble handle the receiver on the wide side.
Miami's offensive stars can absolutely kill you with big plays and that is the #1 reason why they are 12-0 and have a 34-game winning streak. McGahee can go the distance on any play. And André Johnson is always a threat to catch along pass and take it to the house. Miami's scoring drives on average last about 2 minutes. That is not an exaggeration. If Miami strikes quickly for two TD's early like they did against Nebraska in last year's title game, the Buckeyes do not have an offense that can easily come back from that kind of deficit.
Ohio State is going to have to put pressure on Ken Dorsey, and more importantly, put him on the ground. Dorsey has shown that he can get rattled when he takes some shots, but the problem is, he doesn't end up on the ground often. Ohio State's defense line along with a blitzing Cie Grant and Matt Wilhelm has to take all the legal shots they can get on Dorsey. If Ohio State can do this, forget the 13 point spread, it's game on. If Ohio State cannot pressure Dorsey, this Buckeye defense may finally see some points scored against them. The most they gave up in any game this year was the Texas Tech game, when the Red Raiders put 21 on the board.
Another key match-up will be in the middle where OSU tackles Kenny Peterson and Tim Anderson will get to wrestle with one of the best, Miami center Brett Romberg. Peterson and Anderson have had their way with many interior linemen in the Big Ten, but Romberg is on another level. This Buckeye defensive line goes through spurts where they look dominating at times and look a little lackluster at others. They do, however, pick it up in crunch
Players/match-ups to watch - Miami offense vs. OSU defense
Willis McGahee - McGahee had over 2,000 combined rushing and receiving yards along with 27 touchdowns. What else is there to say? His name could have easily been inscribed on the latest Heisman Trophy.
Ken Dorsey - Dorsey can wing it and does not make a whole lot of mistakes. He is very steady and as mentioned before, has a 38-1 record as a starter. Dorsey's only real downside is his mobility which is limited.
André Johnson - Speed, power, the whole nine yards. He creates match-up problems for just about everyone. He is the least talked about 'Cane offensive superstar, but he is going to be a major concern for the OSU defense.
Kellen Winslow Jr. - Like father, like son. Winslow looks like a big WR. He is a big target and can run like no other TE in D1-A.
Miami tackles Vernon Carey and Carlos Joseph and Buckeye ends Will Smith and Darrion Scott - these match-ups cannot be emphasized enough and could
decide the game. Smith and Scott need to find ways to pressure Dorsey for the Bucks to win this one.
Matt Wilhelm - there is a reason he was voted first team All-American. Wilhelm will have his eyes on McGahee all night.
Mike Doss - last year Doss had many big plays that played big rolls in victories. It has not been that way this year, but Doss could be ready to erupt. Doss can "bring the wood" as they say, and this fires this Buckeye defense up.
Chris Gamble - Gamble may or may not be isolated on André Johnson, but Gamble is a game-breaker. If Dorsey gets sloppy like he did against Virginia Tech, Gamble is a guy that can make him pay sorely.
Dustin Fox - the "other" Buckeye corner is the guy that Miami is likely going to go after. Fox had problems against Illinois WR Walter Young and when the Illini smelled blood, they kept going after him. Fox has to hold his own against the talented set of Miami WR's.
Really no contest here. While the return games and coverage units of each school might be about even, the Buckeyes have a big advantage in punting and FG kicking. Both punter Andy Groom and kicker Mike Nugent received All-American recognition. Miami's kickers took steps backwards this year after strong 2001 season.
This could be big, especially if this one stays close. Nugent has missed only twice all year. And a major part of Jim Tressel's game plan is always field position. The Buckeyes need Groom to keep punting like he has the last two years.
Miami is also susceptible to the blocked punt. And I'm sure the Ohio State coaches are well aware of this. The Bucks may go after a few punts on Friday.
The return games have been a little disappointing for both schools this year. Maurice Hall and Chris Gamble have shown flashes, but neither has been able to take one to the house on a return. Miami has a dangerous returner in Roscoe Parrish, but he has not been able to break one either.
I had said that Miami had the edge in this category about a week ago, but my opinion has changed. The Miami arrogance is off the charts. It is okay to be confident, but I don't think many Miami players respect this Ohio State team and really feel they are going to walk over the Buckeyes.
This is exactly what Jim Tressel and the other coaches want to hear. This Ohio State team truly believes they can and should win this game and that they have gotten little respect from the media and from Miami.
He may not have been here at this level, but Jim Tressel has been here before - 6 times. Tressel won four national championships in division 1-AA and lost in two other championship games. He knows pressure. Maybe the pressure of a D1-A national title game is far less than this kind of pressure, but this year's Michigan game surely wasn't. A loss in that game would have hung on Tressel's back so much more than a loss in this National Title game.
Yes, Miami has been there before. And there is always that chance that the big-time atmosphere could get to Ohio State, because they haven't been in this type of game. There is little chance of anything getting to Miami. They have been through the routine before and are looking for their 35th win in a row.
I've been thinking about this every day since about a week after the Michigan game. How does Ohio State match up with Miami? How can they beat Miami? Or can they beat Miami? I've gone over it literally 100 times in my head. And when I start thinking that Ohio State has a very good chance of winning, I ask myself if this is my heart or my head thinking.
These are my thoughts. I truly believe that this will be a close game and I think that is coming from my head and not my heart. I think Ohio State is better than the media has given them credit for. I think Miami is great, but not as good as the media portrays them to be. I think Ohio State's defense is as close to a "10" on a "10" scale as Miami's offense would be on a "10" scale. And I believe this is overlooked. I believe that the Ohio State offense can be very effective with Clarett at 100%. And I believe Miami's arrogance could be their downfall.
How many times have we seen it before? The more explosive offensive team loses to the underdog defensive team that plays fundamental football. The Buckeyes are much more fundamentally sound than Miami. Ohio State has a much better turnover margin. OSU is better in the red zone and better defending in the red zone. OSU has better special teams by far. And Ohio State commits far fewer penalties than Miami.
But Ohio State still needs to overcome a mismatch in the trench when the Buckeyes have the ball. This Ohio State offensive line has not progressed like the coaches had hoped. They will be facing the best defensive line they have faced all year, at least from a pass rush standpoint. The Buckeye tackles have had problem blocking middle of the road defensive ends. This doesn't bode well when you have to face the Miami ends.
And as good as they Buckeye defense is, they have not faced an offense that is as versatile as this Hurricane offense. It will be very difficult to hold this Hurricane offense under, say, 24 points. When you have to prepare for McGahee and Miami's passing game, it makes it very difficult on a defense, no matter how good they are.
As I mentioned before, I think Ohio State has to put Dorsey on the ground early. They need to take him out of his rhythm and then it could be easier to focus on McGahee, Ohio State has to get Clarett going as well and somehow find a way to make a few plays with their passing game. I think it is truly on Ohio State to take their game to another level and make sure they do the right things. Miami, pretty much just needs to be Miami, but they will need to stop the run.
My guess is that it is pretty close the whole way, but if OSU does get down double digits early, I think they will scratch theirselves back into it. I just think it will be too hard for Ohio State to pull off a win if they get down double digits early. If the Bucks keep it close like I think they will, I still have to give Miami the edge. The Call: Miami 27 Ohio State 23