College Football Week 2 Match Up: Miami at Ohio State

After dominant performances by both programs in week one, college football fans will get a great match up this weekend as the Miami Hurricanes travel to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes.  A win for OSU will only solidify their #2 ranking and add more credibility to their quest for a BCS title game, while an upset win by the visiting ‘Canes will effectively put them in the BCS title hunt.

College FootBlog will break down this game, including the strengths and weaknesses of each team, we will present key match ups, and we will give our score prediction of this intriguing, early season match up.

Miami

Jacory Harris could bring some respect back to the "U" with an upset victory at Ohio State this weekend (google images)

Key Strength:  Jacory Harris–Harris has put his name in the list of Hesiman hopefuls based on his performance last season as the full-time starter, and he only added fuel to that fire with his 12-15, 210 yard, three touchdown performance last weekend.  He does a great job of distributing the ball to his stable of wideouts, headlined by senior Leonard Hankerson.  The ‘Canes will need a big game from Harris is they want any shot at upsetting the Buckeyes this weekend.

Key Concern:  Running Game–as great as Harris and his receivers were last year, the ‘Canes ranked 70th in rushing offense last season.  In order to keep Ohio State from simply pinning their ears back and going after Harris, Miami must show more balance.  The addition of a couple of freshmen tailbacks, Lamar Miller and Eduardo Clements, should help the ground game.  Just how much has yet to be determined.

Ohio State

Key Strength:  Defense–For a team known for its defense, it’s scary to think that this could be Jim Tressel’s best defense since his arrival in Columbus.  At the end of the season, we will see how this Buckeye defense ranks against their past defenses, but the 2010 version packs quite a punch.  All in all, the Buckeyes feature seven senior starters on defense, led by linebacker Brian Rolle.  The D-line and linebackers are as solid as there is in college football, but the secondary, anchored by three seniors is going to challenge Harris and his receivers as well.

Key Concern:  Which Terrelle Pryor will show up?–This weekend will be the first weekend this season to see if Pryor has truly grown up as a quarterback, or if the Rose Bowl performance last year was just an aberration.  In his third year as a starter, we should find out this season whether Pryor is a Heisman candidate or an over-hyped athlete that has trouble with giving his team a consistent, solid game, regardless of talent.  If he takes care of the football and makes good decisions, Ohio State will win.  If he reverts back to last year’s inconsistency, the ‘Canes will have a great shot at the upset.  This weekend will also determine whether or not the writers will give him serious consideration for the Heisman.

Ohio State Offense vs Miami Defense

Terrelle Pryor could do wonders for his Heisman hopes and his team's chance at a National Championship with a solid game this weekend (google images)

Pryor will get his shot to prove to the non-believers that he has matured into a great college quarterback this weekend.  As solid as the defenses are in the Big Ten, this weekend, he will face the fastest, most athletic defense  that he will face until a bowl game.  Look for Miami to load the box to try to take running backs Brandon Saine and Boom Herron out of the equation.  This will give Pryor one-on-one coverage with his wideouts.  Miami’s linebacker corps, led by Sean Spence, will try to keep Pryor in the pocket.  If Miami can shut down the OSU running game (which includes Pryor), they will stay in this game until the end.  EDGE:  Miami

Miami Offense vs. Ohio State Defense

This is a very intriguing match up.  The speed of Miami’s wideouts will go against the strength and experience of the best defense in the Big Ten.  Ohio State’s size and strength up front should make it very difficult for the ‘Canes to establish any kind of running game.  That means Harris and his receivers will have to have a huge day.  As efficient as Harris was last season, he struggled mightily against the solid defenses he faced–against Oklahoma, North Carolina, Clemson and Virgina Tech last season, he completed 56% of his passes for six touchdowns, compared to ten interceptions.  Like Pryor, Harris can put his name in serious contention for the Heisman if he can prove he can put up good numbers against great defenses, but the pressure from OSU’s front seven could disrupt his timing.  EDGE:  Ohio State

Special Teams

As usual, Ohio State will have speed in their return game.  WR DeVier Posey and running backs Saine and Herron could all get their shots at returning kicks and punts, but the strength of OSU’s special teams could be their kicker, Devin Barclay, who was 7-10 last year, including a clutch field goal to put away Iowa last year that effectively locked up the Big Ten Title.

Miami counters with a solid kicking game of their own.  Kicker/Punter Matt Bosher is the preseason All-ACC kicker and punter.  The ‘Canes have dangerous return men as well, with Graig Cooper and Travis Benjamin, who are both threats to take one back at any time.  EDGE:  Push

Final Analysis

Miami head coach Randy Shannon has put the Hurricanes back in contention for a BCS Bowl run.  This year represents his best shot at challenging for an ACC title.  His ‘Canes are one of the most athletic teams in the country, and unlike last season, their defense now has experience to go along with their talent. 

Jim Tressel is known for producing great defenses, but this unit could prove to be the deepest one yet.  Although Miami does present some match up problems for the secondary, look for OSU to get after Harris, which was the formula that North Carolina used last season.  Harris will show more poise in the pocket this season, but he needs to be able to step into his throws if he is going to be consistent.  OSU’s front four on defense should be able to wear down Miami’s offensive line, and that could cause a key turn over in the third or fourth quarter.  Final Score Prediction:  Ohio State wins 31-24, but Miami will challenge them.

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