Can weather any storm….
Many years ago when I was a high school football player my coach used to have a saying as it got later in the week regarding the upcoming game – “The hay is in the barn” – he would always say. What he meant is that as long as you had done your work the right way during the week that there was nothing left to do but go out and play. It is funny how often I have used that saying from in my normal life since my small town gridiron glory days – most of the time as a justification to start drinking early on a work day – but now I think there is no more appropriate cliché to describe this Saturday when the Canes come to Cbus. All the work is done, all the film has been watched, for the most part both teams are at completely full strength, both teams have played a “warm up” game, the smack talk has spewed from Cryami – there is nothing left to do but let them play.
It is honestly amazing – there have been a couple different Cane players, as well as former players from Da U that have dropped some bombs about how the Canes are coming to town and going to beat the Buckeyes. But this only does two things in my eyes – first and foremost – it illustrates in how grateful I am to have a coach like Tressel. You don’t see our players shooting their mouths off in a classless fashion attempting to justify it as “swagger” and that aspect alone is a huge reason to be proud that you are a Buckeye. Secondly – talk about bulletin board material. I mean for a team that really hasn’t won anything with any type of weight to be saying “when they win” and referring to the Shoe as non-hostile – I just wonder what they think that will accomplish other than giving a highly talented team like the Buckeyes something else to grab on to as a reason to come out and kick their asses. I mean after all – talk is cheap folks.
Jacory Harris: The story is that he has a great arm but not a lot of pocket presence and makes bad decisions under pressure most of the time. That being said after throwing for 3000 yards and 24 TDs last year combined with splitting time in 2008 Harris is now in the top 10 of most passing categories at Miami which is pretty good considering history of signal callers that have come through the program (Kelly, Kosar, Testeverde). The flipside fact is that he threw 17 picks last year and was sacked 34 times. He is not a huge threat to do anything with his legs (which are skinny as hell). He actually had -219 yards rushing last season. That is a good thing for a defense that has some nasty men up front that can make a drop back passers life very difficult on Saturdays – not to mention Moeller on the outside blitz working in Star. One thing I can say is that Harris is one snappy dresser – WOW.
Offensive Line: The Canes field a veteran, good sized and active line. Led by senior #74 Franklin at left tackle who has 22 starts under his belt, albeit at left guard. Similarly the other positions have been through the same type of shuffling. Current left guard Gunn (junior, #66) has started before but at right guard. The current right tackle (Figueroa, senior) has started at right guard. And so forth. They may be veteran but any line that gives up 34 sacks a season I struggle to be impressed with. It will be interesting to see how they handle Heyward, Williams and Larimore.
The Backfield : Miami has a running back committee similar to the Buckeyes. #20 Berry (6’0” 215, senior) is the posting 616 yards and 4 TDs a year ago, #5 James backs him up with senior Cooper also in the fold although it was reported that he probably won’t play (9/7). There is also a freshman #6 Miller that led the team in rushing last week against Florida A&M with 65 yards and a score. I do not see these guys getting much daylight with Homan, Moeller and B Rolle patrolling sideline to sideline.
Out Wide: This is the area where Buckeye fans should be most concerned. Miami has some ballers at WR. Hankerson #85 is a senior who played high school ball at St.Thomas Aquinas (like Duron Carter) and had 116 yards and two scores last week on top of a 2009 that saw him go for 800 yards and six TDs. At 6-3, 205 he is a challenge for even Chekwa. On the other side is a burner #3 Benjiman from the same HS as Santonio Holmes who had 500 yards and 4 TDs last year. Behind them is #47 Byrd who had 400 yards last year. Our DBs have their work cut out for them this week for sure.
Defense: I have heard a lot about the guys up front for sure. Eight sacks last week. The group is led by Bailey (#57 senior) and Vernon (#35 sophomore) on the edge – both bring speed and look to build on solid seasons last year. In the middle are #92 Homes and #99 Fortson. This is one group that is on par with the skill level of the Buckeyes front four. Our offensive line has its’ work cut out for itself in a big way. At weakside linebacker is #31 Spence who was last year’s ACC defensive rookie of the year. On the strong side is #44 McCarthy and in the middle is #36 Robinson. Both Spence and McCarthy have struggled with injuries in the past and Robinson is first year starter. The group is talented but not very deep beyond the three starters. In the secondary is #1 Harris a first team ACC player last year and could be considered one of the nation’s top corners. On the other side is a senior #8 Van Dyke and in the middle are two highly regarded sophomores – hard hitting #7 Telemaque and #26 Armstrong who had a pick six last week. This is not the Thundering Herd defense – that is for sure.
Motivation: Easy – respect and redemption. Randy Shannon has the team on the way back. They have looked good and the talent is back in Coral Gables. A signature win would not only thrust them into the top 10 most likely but also provide them with the feather in the cap to tout to everyone that the Canes are back. Also there is the payback factor for all the sour grapes from the 2002 NC game.
When I think about the Buckeyes in this game I honestly just feel that we are a stronger team this time around top to bottom. I am sure that is very much due to the fact that I live life through scarlet glasses but when I compare Harris to Pryor there is no comparison. Pryor has matured and we are now seeing what a true dual threat he can be. It could be argued that Harris is a better passer but still he is one dimensional – and this is the college game still. So I see Pryor winning the QB battle. Obviously the line needs to play well, especially at left tackle so I hope Adams is ready. This will be their opportunity to really shine. If we can run the ball and control the clock all the better and between Saine, Boom, Hall and Berry we have enough proven runners to go right at them like Wisconsin did in their bowl game. Posey and Sanzenbacher always seems to find a way to get open once or twice too. With our defense the Canes will go nowhere on the ground, they are primarily a passing team anyway and we are too good in the front seven. Through the air it needs to be the bullets bringing the heat to make sure the secondary is not exposed for too long downfield – Harris can make reads and has a good arm – he can hurt us through the air.
The Buckeyes motivation is a win in this game would be one more notch in the gun belt for a program battling against the collective feeling of all non-Buckeyes that we can’t win big games. Oregon was a good win, yes. But it is the beginning of the road on the way back to the elite aura by far. Beating Miami, and maybe even winning big would do a lot to help the perception of the team as well as keep them in the hunt for the BCS title game.
It really comes down to if we can pressure Harris. I am not concerned about Pryor whatsoever. If he gets flushed he can run with anyone and we have seen TP be able to make the right reads in two games now – I am a believer. It is important that we run the ball and I think we will be able to, pass protection may struggle – but since Pryor can run this puts us at a distinct advantage that way. If we can’t pressure Harris and his receivers can work underneath or one on one against our secondary – yikes. But they will not run the ball on us. I also do not think that special teams will be an issue this week, after last week I guarantee it was a focus for the Buckeyes. Bring on the storm.
Buckeyes – 27
Miami – 17