Friday, September 10, 2010

GAME PREVIEW: IT'S ALL ABOUT THE U

COLUMBUS — Who can blame the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes for focusing in on Saturday's showdown with the No. 12 Miami Hurricanes a little more than they usually would?

It is no secret that Ohio State hasn't fared very well in their marquee regular season (out-of-conference) showdowns the past two years. So, when the Buckeyes admit that they sort of looked past Marshall last week and ahead to Miami, it's pretty easy to understand why.

"There's definitely a few games you have circled on your schedule," Ohio State junior center Mike Brewster said.

"Like some of the guys said, this game is in the back of your mind, even during the first week. We knew Marshall was a good team and we had to take care of that game first. But it's good that it's finally here and we can focus on (Miami) and put all of our energy on this game.

"Coach told us on Sunday that we haven't really done well in these early big-stage games the past couple years, and it's going to be a great challenge. He wants us to rise that. This is really going to be the test. This is going to show what we're really made of."

Ohio State finally snapped its three-game BCS bowl game losing streak last January by upending the Oregon Ducks in the Rose Bowl. Now, the Buckeyes will look to snap their regular season (out-of-conference) big game drought, as well.

Brewster said to get over the hump the Buckeyes must dominate the 'Canes — even before they step on the field Saturday.

"We need to be better than them Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday," Brewster said. "So when Saturday comes we can be more prepared.

"It starts with today's practice."

There's a lot of history going on in this game. The last time these two teams faced (in 2003) it was for a national championship. No. 2 Ohio State went into the desert and snapped Miami's 34-game winning streak by beating them in a double-overtime thriller which many still feel is the best title game ever played.

It's fairly safe to say that this game is a pretty big deal, right?

"It might be," OSU senior cornerback Chimdi Chekwa said. "Subconsciously, we don't really try to make it too much of a big deal. The big deal comes from playing a top-ranked team. Playing a team that we know is going to come in here with a lot of confidence, having the opportunity to play on a big stage."

Ohio State will have their hands full trying to contain Miami quarterback Jacory Harris. Harris can be a very dangerous player when given time to dissect the defensive secondary.

Many have even compared Harris to Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor — though Chekwa doesn't see the comparison.

"Not too much," Chekwa said when asked if Harris is similar to Pryor. "Besides the fact that he's a great quarterback like Terrelle, I don't think they have the same styles at all. Terrelle is a guy who if you give him an opportunity to run, he's going to take that opportunity and make you pay.

"I think Jacory is a guy who wants to sit back there and throw the pass, even with the opportunity to run. Just the style, just the way they stand back there and throw, I don't think they're too similar, but I think they're both good quarterbacks."

As great of a passer as Harris is when he gets time, his efficiency plummets when he's faced with pressure. Last season, Harris threw two or more interceptions five times, including four picks against North Carolina, a team that likes to pressure the quarterback.

Chekwa understands what kind of player the Buckeyes are up against.

"I think Jacory Harris is a guy you can tell really wants to throw the ball and really wants to throw it deep," Chekwa said. "And sometimes last year it cost him. But I think he's a great quarterback, he can make the throws, the long throws. He's going to be a challenge for us."

Photo of Miami quarterback Jacory Harris by NYTimes.
Bottom Line

As always, a game of this magnitude will be won in the trenches. Each team possesses great defensive fronts that love to get after the quarterback. But where these teams differ is on the offensive line, where Ohio State is experienced, talented and big-game ready. Miami has four new starters up front and have yet to be battle tested.

Look for Harris to be on his back, or chucking the ball quickly into coverage.

Either way, it spells success for the Buckeyes.

Saturday will be "All about the U."

OSU that is.

Prediction: Buckeyes 30-14