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Buckeyes Buckeye Archive Preview: Ohio State at Miami
Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar



- Saturday September 17, 2011

- Sun Life Stadium; Miami Gardens, FL

- Ohio State at University of Miami

- 7:30 p.m. (ET)

- TV: ESPN, -

The Buckeyes hit the road for the first time in the 2011 season with a prime-time contest against the Miami Hurricanes on Saturday night. 17th-ranked Ohio State (2-0) will be trying to remain unbeaten against an unranked Hurricane team still looking for their first win of the campaign, but as they take their talents to South Beach, the Buckeyes still find themselves 2-point underdogs.

These two traditional powerhouses met a year ago in Columbus under completely different circumstances, with the ‘Canes ranked No. 12 and Ohio State No. 2. All the talk then was of the duel between the two gifted junior quarterbacks, and the revenge factor for Miami in the first matchup of the teams since the 2002 national championship game.

Ohio State humbled the Hurricanes 36-24 that afternoon last September, and if Miami still has an axe to grind about 2002, they’ve been pretty quiet about it this time around. Hurricane quarterback Jacory Harris returns, looking for redemption for the four interceptions he threw a year ago, but the Buckeyes’ quarterback situation is no less iffy after Joe Bauserman’s up and down showing last week.

This will be the fifth time these teams have met, the Buckeyes having won three of the four prior contests. The official record book shows just three previous games, with a 2-1 OSU edge in the series, since last year’s victory has been vacated by Ohio State as part of their sanctions for NCAA violations. Ohio State took a 10-0 decision in the 1977 opener in Columbus, and fell to the Hurricanes 23-12 in the 1999 Kickoff Classic. Then there was that Duel in the Desert on January 3, 2003.

Bad Boys

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that the ESPN telecast will mention that Ohio State has had some off-the-field issues affecting them this past off-season, and if they get around to it, some of Miami’s troubles might find their way into the narrative as well. Both teams will still be short-handed, although both will be getting some players back for this game that have not yet seen action this season.

Ohio State had three players reinstated by the NCAA this week after serving 2-game suspensions for accepting improper benefits. Starting cornerback Travis Howard, No. 1 tailback Jordan Hall, and backup safety Corey Brown will all be available for Luke Fickell’s Buckeyes on Saturday. Also coming back from an unrelated suspension is offensive guard Corey Linsley, who is likely to share playing time at right guard for the Bucks. And four star players for the Hurricanes, receiver Travis Benjamin, linebacker Sean Spence, defensive tackle Marcus Fortson, and the quarterback Harris will all be eligible to compete against OSU.

dorsey1Long Road Back Hits A Speed Bump

Stop me if you’ve heard the one about the Miami Hurricanes returning to the nation’s college football elite. Since they bottomed out in 2007 (5-7) in head coach Randy Shannon’s first season in Coral Gables, the program has been building and rebuilding and building some more. Shannon has made progress, recruiting well and improving in each of the next two seasons before last year’s step back to a 7-6 mark, which included a Sun Bowl loss to Notre Dame that wasn’t as close as the 33-17 score.

There’s more detail on “what happened to Miami?” in a 2010 article here, and it’s not quite fair to link their decline to that double-overtime loss in Arizona in January of ‘03 (they were 9-3 or better in ‘03, ‘04, and ‘05), but the program has not been a factor on the national scene since Cie Grant grabbed Ken Dorsey by the jersey and left him kneeling on the Fiesta Bowl turf amid the Buckeye celebration.

Then this August the program was rocked by YahooSports’ Charles Robinson’s shocking expose of parties, prostitutes and payoffs provided by a criminal booster, and the ‘Canes began the season under a cloud much like the one that’s been shadowing Ohio State for the last nine months. Their 2011 opener was a disappointing 32-24 setback at Maryland, a game that saw the Hurricane defense give up 499 total yards to the Terrapins, 311 in the first half alone.

So yes, it’s their home opener...yes, their coaches have all kinds of ways to motivate them against Ohio State...yes, it’s the first regular season game ever for Ohio State in the state of Florida (how amazing is that?), and yes, they’ve got some key players back from the doghouse. Still, for them to be favored over the six-time defending Big Ten champions and a Top 20 team, there must be some serious questions about the Ohio State Buckeyes.


Bauserman3rSerious Questions

Maybe one day the NCAA will explain just how the OSU players’ tattoos-for-cash benefits from an unassociated felon merited five-game suspensions, while the Miami players’ taking part in a booster-sponsored bacchanalia of cash, hookers and yachts weighed in at one game, but the bottom line is that the three best offensive players for Ohio State, tackle Mike Adams, tailback Dan Herron, and receiver DeVier Posey will remain off-site this Saturday, while Miami welcomes back four of their stars...Harris, Spence, Fortson and Benjamin for the game.

On the OSU sidelines for a different reason is three year starter, defensive end Nathan Williams, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his knee this week, and will probably be out for a month. His backup on the depth chart is redshirt freshman J.T. Moore, but defensive coordinator Jim Heacock has several different combinations of linemen he could use to adjust for the loss of Williams, including using John Simon at the Leo end spot. Freshman Steve Miller could also see more action there.

But more central to the concerns about the Buckeyes is the quarterback situation. Joe Bauserman had a solid effort in the opener against Akron, but he was anything but scintillating last week against Toledo. Bauserman (#14 at right) avoided any catastrophic fumbles...and the Buckeyes came away with a nerve-wracking victory, but his ho-hum performance left impatient Buckeye fans banging the drum to get on with the Braxton Miller Era.

Coach Fickell revealed this week that Miller was “dinged up” in practice prior to the Toledo game, but he also insisted that wasn’t the reason he didn’t play Miller at all against the Rockets. Fickell assured reporters that Miller is in this week’s plans for Miami, but his inclusion in the plans didn’t get him on the field against Toledo. The Buckeyes lack playmakers on offense with their senior leaders suspended, and Miller at least gives them a guy with mobility and speed at the QB position to go with a strong, accurate arm. I think he’ll need to play, and play well, if the Buckeyes are going to win this game.

Berry_IndianaNot So Special

Last year’s game would have been a rout for the Buckeyes if the Hurricanes had not scored 14 points on two long kick returns for touchdowns in the first half. Special teams were the Buckeyes’ Achilles heel in several games a year ago, and the early returns for those units this fall have not been terribly encouraging.

They had a punt blocked last week to set up a Toledo touchdown, and kicker Drew Basil has missed his only two field goal attempts of the young season. Basil had a strong spring and summer camp, but he needs a chip shot to get his head right, and the Buckeye coaches simply have to correct the flaws in their protection and kick coverage schemes, especially against teams with the skill position talent of the Hurricanes, if they hope to keep winning games.

Help is on the way this week in the form of Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry. Hall is the team’s best punt returner (and tailback) and he might be used on kickoff returns as well. Berry (#4 at right) is said to be fully recovered from a hamstring strain that kept him sidelined for much of fall camp. He returned kickoffs last week and is expected to be worked back into the tailback rotation on offense this week too.

Key Personnel

As usual, the Hurricanes have a wealth of athletic ability on offense. They would rather run the ball than throw it, and they have two very capable backs in Mike James and Lamar Miller. It was Miller who ran a kickoff back for an 88-yard TD after the first OSU points of the game last year. Harris would prefer not to run from the QB spot, so they don’t have many designed runs for him, but he can hurt a defense with his legs if he has to scramble. This game may very well come down to whether or not Jacory Harris turns the ball over with fumbles or interceptions.

miami20logoTravis Benjamin, Laron Byrd and Allen Hurns are a very talented trio of receivers for Harris to throw to, and he’ll set up behind a physical and experienced offensive line. Benjamin had a 79-yard punt return for a score against the Bucks a year ago. The pass rush will be a big key for OSU, as they try to force Harris into the same kinds of mistakes he made last year against them. The Hurricanes turned the ball over four times last week against Maryland, and this will be the first game action of the year for Harris and Benjamin, so they could show some rust.

Getting Marcus Fortson and Sean Spence back should go a long way toward solidifying a defense that was porous against the Terrapins. Spence had an outstanding game against OSU last year, and continued from there with a stellar season at linebacker, totaling 111 tackles and 17 TFL.  Fortson is a powerful and athletic force in the middle of the defensive line for Miami. He had 37 stops and 12 TFL in 2010.

Brandon McGee is a star in the making at cornerback. His matchup with the young OSU receivers is one to keep an eye on Saturday night. The ‘Canes have an enforcer in the defensive backfield in safety Vaughn Telemaque, a hard-hitting 3-year starter with excellent ball skills.

Idle Speculation

I expect a close, relatively low-scoring game in this one, with turnovers probably deciding it. Ohio State is prone to turn it over because of the road venue and the inexperience at the offensive skill positions, and Miami is prone to turn the ball over because that’s their track record, and the track record of the OSU defense.

Lamar Miller looks to me like an NFL running back, and he shows breakaway ability. OSU defenders will have to tackle better than they did a week ago, or Miller could burn them for some big plays. There will be no catching him (or Benjamin) from behind if he gets some space.

I don’t think the Buckeyes have the offensive firepower to survive a special teams TD by Miami, let alone two, like they did last year. If the Canes are forced to score on the OSU defense, the Bucks have a shot.

The pass rush is a concern. OSU has nine sacks through two games, but no close observer would say they have looked consistently good putting pressure on the QB. Now with Nate Williams out, Heacock will need to adjust and get creative and aggressive to put pressure on Harris. Ryan Shazier is a pass-rushing weapon that begs to be used more. And Tyler Moeller needs to show up as the Moeller of old.

I think the Buckeyes have a good chance to win this game, but not if they get down by a couple of scores early. This is not an offense that I think will fare well trying to come from behind. I do believe that the return of Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry to go along with Carlos Hyde will do wonders for the running game, and Hall’s ability as a receiver will open up the playbook somewhat for the OSU coaches.

That added factor on offense, coupled with the strong OSU defense, especially in pass coverage, could be enough to turn it for Ohio State.  I have been especially impressed with the coverage skills of OSU corners Bradley Roby and Dominic Clarke so far, and when you re-insert Travis Howard into that group, against a QB known to throw interceptions in bunches...let’s just say I like that matchup.

Stay in the game early...rush the passer aggressively...prevent kick return TD’s...utilize the speed backs (including Braxton Miller) you’ve added to the offensive package....get your field goal kicker off the schneid...that’s the formula for a Buckeye victory. Fail to do any one of those things, and OSU might leave the Top 20 for the duration of 2011.

I’ll stick with a pick of 23-20 Buckeyes...with many reservations.



OSU Athletic Communications - Game Notes - (pdf)

Ohio State Roster

Miami Roster

Miami Depth Chart


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(photo credits: Jamie Sabau/Getty Images North America.....Jim Davidson,

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