Revenge is a dish best served cold; but is it even on the menu?
Many outsider's reference 'the call', and they wonder how that call might factor into Saturday's clash between Miami and Ohio State. I can't speak for Miami fans, but I can give you my perspective.
When 'the call' happened - I shook my head in disappointment. Not because I didn't think it was the right call, but because the call was late, and because I knew it was something we'd be talking about for a long time. I was right. I guess it doesn't matter that the refs seemed to ignore Miami's incessant holding all game. I have the DVD. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see who benefitted from the calls/no calls that night. You can borrow it. The only thing that mattered; is that instead of enjoying my beloved National Championship - I have to defend it around every turn, and my celebration turned into a Buckeye hate-carnival that has lasted till this day.
I can live with it.
Players from both teams will tell you that they don't remember much about 'the' game, and that they were 'only in 7th grade'. Regardless, the Ohio State and Miami clash this weekend is amplified by their last meeting. Fans and players on both sides have something to prove.
Miami wants revenge. Ohio State wants to silence the critics.
Both teams have loads of talent. In terms of playing in gigantic games with NC ramifications - Ohio State has an edge. Of course, Ohio State has lost many of those games, but it's an advantage none-the-less.
The fact is, Ohio State has been building towards this season. Pryor has grown up, the line has grown-up, and even Tressel has grown-up.
There is one thing that the Buckeye players do remember. It's the painful losses to USC, Texas, Purdue, and LSU.
How about that VaTech/Boise game? Talk about mistakes. If it weren't for an avalanche of defensive mistakes we wouldn't be talking about Boise's 7 first-place votes. VaTech has some talent, but that's not a top fifteen team. Not with that youth on D, not with Bud Foster, not with Frank Beamer, a home crowd, or on any other day, and if that's the only substance behind a National Championship argument for Boise then they don't deserve a shot.
Now, listen while all of you sit there. What OG Mike Brewster said is true, "we all know they're not going to give us a shot with one loss". Listen Boise lovers. Blue kool-aid drinkers. We have a few more tough games on the schedule. @ Wisconsin(a potential top 10 team), @Iowa(a potential top 10 team), Penn State, and that team up north. Then there's the match-up this weekend. I got news for you folks. The Ohio Bobcats would hit .750 with that Boise schedule, and I can name about 15 BCS teams that could run the table with that schedule. Back to the game, and my point.
Don't expect those VaTech-like mistakes on Saturday from the Buckeyes. 25 Seniors. A bakers dozen or so fifth-year guys. Guys like Homan, Heyward, Boren, and Browning... What motivates them? I can tell you what doesn't - some contraversial call(one of many that night - or no call) that happened when they were in the 7th grade. What motivates this group of Buckeyes is the criticism, and the hate that has circled this program since January of 2003. It grew to epic proportions in january of 2007, and then even bigger in January of 2008. It sits there like the Blob, or like Audrey in The Little Shop of Horrors saying, "F-E-E-D me".
I'll give you ten guesses as to which team is more motivated by being told that they can't win the big one?
The cliche', "we're going to let our performance do all the talking", sums up every player interview this week. Ohio State is ready. Here's a few reasons why Ohio State will win this weekend.
1. When a linebacker blitzes a gap, or comes in to make a tackle against Ohio State - he is stopped abruptly, and violently by Fb Zach Boren. Boren's 6'3" 252 pound frame, power, and balance renders even the best linebackers useless. Ask Navarro Bowman, Sean Lee, or last weeks NFL prospect, 6'1" 255 pound Mario Harvey. Have you seen the movie Hancock? When the Train runs into WIll Smith, and all that power and inertia is stopped instantly? Not the best movie, but it's an accurate picture.
2.The offensive line. You can no longer load the box and depend on Terrelle Pryor to make mistakes, or panic. Remember all that SEC speed talk in '07 and '08. There might be some truth to it. Jim Cordle and Alex Boone weren't the most athletic guys; good for BigTen bull-rushing, but terrible pass blockers. We won't see them on 'Dancing With the Stars' anytime soon, and for more than one good reason. The current centerpieces of Mike Brewster(6'4" 295), Justin Boren(6'1" 320), and the overlooked and most improved player I've ever seen, Bryant Browning(6'4" 315), make penetrating the middle a truly futile and pshychologically damaging effort. The Junior OT's JB Shugarts and Mike Adams are still learning the game, but athletically, they are as intimidating and as talented as any duo in the country. There's only one defensive-end that consistently got to the quarterback in Camp, and that brings me to my next point.
3. As good as Miami's DL is; the best pass rusher will still be #43 in Scarlet and Gray. DE Nathan Williams had a relatively minor knee sprain that held him out for two weeks. He was back at practice on Sunday, and will play Saturday barring any further setbacks. Williams is the definition of a speed-rush end. A high-motor, physically gifted athlete that will get to the quarterback.
4.Jim Tressel. I was one of his detractors. What I didn't realize is that Pryor and the OL weren't ready to play with balance at the beginning of last season, and even less so in 2008. Tressel has proven to be a conservative coach, but even the coach is learning. It's getting harder every game for Tressel to ignore the improvement/progression of his entire offense. Tressel also reminds me of Pryor in that he does his best in big games. You may think the opposite because of the reputation. We all remember the results against USC in '08, Texas in the Fiesta, and LSU/Fla in the NC's. The truth of the matter is that those games were lost because of a lack of execution, and numerous player mistakes. It wasn't Tressel's play-calling. Now, you go back to the PSU loss in 2008 - you'll see a conservative coach with a bunch of freshman contributors. Tressel's playcalling is dictated by the personnel, and right now the personnel can do anything.
5.Weapons on offense. Ohio State doesn't just have an elite offensive-line - they have playmakers behind them. Former Ohio Football Player of the Year Brandon Saine missed the better part of two seasons('07/'08) due to injury. The fans were wondering if the highly touted recruit and sprint champion would ever make an impact. Last season he went for 739 yards at 5.1 ypc, and Saturday, 'Zoom' went for 103 on 9 carries(11.4ypc). He's one of 4 talented backs in the stable for this weekends' game. Saine and Daniel 'Boom' Herron are experienced Rb's. Saine is big(6'1" 220) and fast(4.34), and Herron is experienced, quick, and has good vision and power. The two back-ups, Jaamal Berry and Jordan Hall, are ultra-fast change-ups that play and play well. Miami should be familiar with some of the players from our team. Brian Rolle, Chimdi Chekwa, Jaamal Berry, Orhian Johnson, Mike Brewster, Travis Howard, Carlos Hyde, and James Louis all hail from the state of Florida. Brewster was ranked by Scout as the #1 offensive lineman in the south as a Senior, and Jaamal Berry the #2 Rb in the state of Florida(according to Rivals/5th overall) behind Alabama's Trent Richardson. To put some of the talent on Offense in perspective - in 2008 Pryor was #1 on the Rivals 100, Mike Adams was #3, and Devier Posey was #21. That same year Julio Jones was #4, AJ Green #9, and Miami's Marcus Forston was #7. 8 of the 11 starters on Ohio State's offense are RivalsTop100 players. 2 of the others(sanzenbacher and browning) have beaten out Top100's at their position, and TE Jake Stoneburner was ranked #120 overall(#3 TE). The group is also experienced. Amongst the 11 starters on offense there are 168 starts.
This is one of the top-three Ohio State teams since I became a Buckeyefreak in the mid-80's(and yes, I learned all of that from the Marshall game :).
Ohio State's defense is good, but overrated. Thankfully, the offense(in-particular the offensive line) is so good that Miami doesn't stand much of a chance at outscoring the Buckeyes. A few turnovers or big plays can always swing a game between two teams of this caliber, but the Buckeyes' experience, and the fact that they have gone 7 straight games leading in turnover ratio; has me thinking that the Hurricanes will have all they can handle this Saturday. Miami would best be served to pass on every down. That's what they did in the second half of the NC. That's what Texas did in the second half of the Fiesta bowl. If they can benefit from a couple of turnovers, and dominate the special teams aspect of the football game, then they have a solid shot to win in the shoe.
Ohio State 34 Miami 24