Canes, Buckeyes renew rivalry

Slowly, No. 17 Ohio State and Miami are trying to regain some sense of normal.

While NCAA investigations at both schools continue, a total of eight Buckeyes and Hurricanes will be eligible to return from suspensions when the teams meet Saturday night. Even so, it's impossible to escape the fallout from scandals that overshadow everything they do on the field and even the memory of the national championship game they played to close the 2002 season.

''After everything we've gone through, it's got to a point now where I feel like nothing can break us,'' Ohio State center Mike Brewster said. ''We have gone through so much, we have handled so much, we just keep getting closer, and at this point nothing can affect us.''

Miami's mess - an extra benefits scandal involving a former booster - would only get messier with a loss in Al Golden's home debut as coach of the Hurricanes, who are trying to avoid losing five straight games for the first time in more than three decades.

The last time a Miami team opened 0-2 was 1978, when the Hurricanes were wrapping up an eight-game slide over parts of two seasons. So it's no shock that Golden isn't likely to sneak peeks at the scene during his first time on the Miami sideline. He'll have more pressing issues.

''I don't give myself too many moments,'' Golden said. ''For me, it's going to be about each and every play and making sure everybody on our team is ready, including our staff, to make sure they have what they need to do their job.''

The teams met last season, a 36-24 Ohio State win that brought out somewhat less-than-scintillating play from both sides. That game was played amid unbelievable cloud cover in Columbus, the sky so dark that people in the upper levels of the Horseshoe had trouble actually seeing the field.

Turns out, those conditions were a perfect metaphor for what would soon strike both programs.

A memorabilia-for-tattoos situation is how the problems at Ohio State began in earnest, eventually ending the Buckeye careers of both former coach Jim Tressel - who led the school past Miami for the national title - and quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Four other Ohio State players remain suspended by the NCAA for their involvement.

''We hope and we think that this is what the game is all about, to be able to handle adversity, and we believe it's going to make us stronger in the long run,'' Ohio State interim coach Luke Fickell said. ''And as long as we continue to handle it in the right way, and communicate better in every aspect that we can, but it comes from the top down.''

This summer, Miami started feeling NCAA heat when a former booster went public with allegations that he provided 72 players and recruits with cash, gifts and nightclub access over an eight-year span. At least 13 current Hurricanes have been implicated and investigated, and three will not regain their eligibility until next month.

For five others who had to sit out the opener because of violations, it's time to finally play football again.

''I'm very excited,'' said linebacker Sean Spence, one of the five. ''Ready for the challenge. ... It's going to mean so much to be back.''

Ohio State struggled at times a week ago against Toledo, escaping with a 27-22 win. Quarterback Joe Bauserman played the whole way, although Fickell said he expects the Buckeyes to use both Bauserman and freshman Braxton Miller - who was 8 for 12 for 130 yards and a touchdown against Akron in Week 1. Defensive end Nathan Williams will sit out after having a knee scoped, but running back Jordan Hall will start again after returning from suspension, which will presumably take some pressure off Bauserman early.

At Miami, there's no quarterback dilemma, at least for now. Jacory Harris will start over Stephen Morris, who got the call against Maryland while the senior was serving his one-game suspension.

''This will be a great test for us to see if we are getting better, to see if we can rise to the occasion against a different opponent,'' Fickell said. ''But we try not to focus on, `Hey, this is a national game because of Miami and their great history and Ohio State's great history.' We're still making sure we understand it's one game at a time, like we always say, but it's still about getting better. It's a chance to obviously test ourselves.''


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