Ohio State vs. Miami Preview

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Last updated: 09/15/2011 8:54 PM
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Ohio State at Miami Preview
By Tony Gerdeman

With last season's meeting between these two teams having never occurred, the Buckeyes now own a 2-1 record all-time over Miami.

The Hurricanes are 63-21 all-time in home openers, and 15-7 at Sun Life Stadium, which is their current home.

Miami has lost to ranked opponents four times in a row. They are looking to get their first win over a ranked opponent since a 21-20 win over #8 Oklahoma in 2009.

Ohio State is 14-7 all-time against teams in the ACC, and they go to Miami with a 32-16 record in night games.

Earle Bruce was the last Ohio State head coach to win his road debut. With a win this week, Luke Fickell would join Bruce as the only two Ohio State head coaches in over 65 years to begin their career with a 3-0 record.

When Miami Has The Ball

The Hurricanes run a pro style offense, which will be a welcome sight to the Buckeye defenders, even if they won't admit it. They won't have to face a spread attack that works on mismatches and quick passes. They will play a team that will come at them and simply try to beat them straight up.

Miami will want to control the ball by first establishing their running game, and they've got the talent to do so. Sophomore Lamar Miller rushed for 119 yards to open the season against Maryland. Buckeye fans should remember him from last year's game in which he had an 88-yard kickoff return touchdown.

Miller has the strength to break tackles, but he also has the balance to take a hit and get moving north and south very quickly. He's not overly elusive, but he doesn't get hit hard either.

Mike James will also get some carries, and while he is dangerous, it appears that Miller is the guy that the Buckeyes will truly need to be concerned about.

Miami's offensive line averages over 310 pounds per man, but they have holes. Defenses can get into the backfield against them--Maryland did it six times.

Ohio State comes into this game with a bit of a depleted defensive line. Nathan Williams, the weakside pass rusher, is out for the foreseeable future, which means that redshirt freshman J.T. Moore will once again be counted on to be a disruptor in Williams' absence. Moore is persistent, but is just a step slow right now.

The versatility of the Buckeye defensive line allows them to better absorb the loss of Williams with the likes of Moore and John Simon, but the front four as a whole will be less effective than they could be.

Jacory Harris will get the start this week after missing the Maryland game because of suspension. This will be his first live action of the year. He could either be rusty, which would be great for Ohio State, or he could be overly conservative, which would be terrible for the Buckeyes.

Regardless of how Harris comes into this game, expect the Ohio State defense to make things more hectic for him by bringing a few more blitzes than they have so far this season. Without Nathan Williams available, they'll have to get a pass rush from somewhere.

John Simon, normally the team's strongside defensive end, will move around and also play some weak side. Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins may be the key to the entire defensive line, however, as he attempts to collapse the line of scrimmage before Lamar Miller can get going.

The play-action pass will very much be a part of the Miami offense, and so far the Ohio State safeties have been up to the task. To this point however, there hasn't been much of a task to be up to. Harris will go downfield and test every member of the Buckeye secondary.

It will be interesting to see if he goes after cornerback Travis Howard who will be playing in his first game of the season. The Hurricanes have five pretty talented receivers, and plays can come from any one of them.

Miami hasn't done much on special teams to this point, but you don't need a DVR to remember what happened last season when these two teams met.

The Buckeyes kickoff coverage hasn't been bad, but they have given up a 42-yard kickoff return in each of their two games so far.

When Ohio State Has The Ball

The Buckeyes struggled to run the ball against Toledo last week because the Rockets stacked the box and had no regard for Ohio State's passing game. If that's going to change this week, the Buckeyes will have to prove that they are willing to throw the ball downfield.

Miami was torched for 348 yards through the air against Maryland, and there's very little reason why the Buckeyes can't have success here as well.

However, that doesn't mean it will be as easy. The Hurricanes will be returning three key defenders from suspension, as defensive linemen Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo, and linebacker Sean Spence all come back this week. Spence is back in the starting lineup, but the other two will have to work for it a bit. All three will play significant minutes this week.

The Buckeyes haven't allowed a sack in 90 pass attempts, which is a streak that stretches back to the Michigan game last season. They will be tested more than ever against the Hurricanes, however.

There will be an interesting tug of war between contradictory practices in this game. On the road in a big game, Ohio State quarterbacks tend to protect the football above all else, but the Buckeyes will need quarterback Joe Bauserman to be more aggressive on Saturday night than he was last week against Toledo. The offense simply won't be able to move the ball if they doesn't attack Miami vertically.

Running back Jordan Hall returns from suspension this week. He was slated to start for the suspended Boom Herron, and will possibly re-assume that role against Miami. Hall has only been a complementary change-of-pace tailback, but this could be the first time he is actually a featured portion of Ohio State's offense.

Running backs Carlos Hyde and Rod Smith are the only two Buckeyes to carry the ball from the tailback spot for the Buckeyes this year, and both have had issues with patience and vision. Hall would hope to alleviate some of that, but he is just as unproven this season as both Hyde and Smith.

Miami will make the Buckeyes throw the ball, and the young Ohio State receivers will get their first real test of the season. They have been running free quite a bit so far, but that will be harder to come by on Saturday night.

Bauserman won't have as large of a window to throw though as he had against Toledo, so he's going to have to make do with what the Hurricanes give him. He has to trust himself to make all of the throws.

Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller sat last week because of the sticky situation that the game was in, as well as a leg injury that he was dealing with. He's healthy this week and the coaches are committed to getting him in the game. If he does get in, expect him to start slowly as this is the first big spot of his college football career. If he gets a couple of series in a row, however, he will begin to settle down, which will help the team in the second half.

The Ohio State special teams are a mixed bag right now. Drew Basil has missed both of his field goal attempts this season and he might need a short attempt in order to build his confidence.

The Buckeyes had a punt blocked last week. If it happens this week, chances are that Ohio State will lose.

Chris Fields returned a punt for a touchdown last week. With Jordan Hall back, it will be interesting to see if he steps in for Fields.

How It Will End Up

The Buckeyes will likely open up with some form of a scripted first series, so they will be well-practiced in those specific plays. As such, they should be able to have a successful early going.

The key for Miami will be to avoid mistakes. People assume that Jacory Harris is going to throw interceptions simply because he is on the field, but that's not how it works. The Buckeyes will have to get after him. They will blitz him and it will be up to him to make Ohio State pay.

The Buckeyes will have success running the ball in the second half, but not much in the first half. The Hurricanes will only grudgingly defend the pass when they are forced to do so repeatedly.

No one Ohio State running back will dominate the game, but as a whole, they will complement each other well.

Miami's defense can be victimized by a simple offense, but it has to also be a precise offense. Ohio State's offense fits the simple mold, but the precision part still needs to be seen.

Joe Bauserman will throw his first interception of the season, and it might even be on the first series. He can't let it affect him for the entire game though.

In the end, however, it will be the Hurricanes who make the more costly mistakes, and the Buckeyes will ride them to victory.

Ohio State 27 - Miami 21

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