Mailbag III: The Orange Bowl

The Orange Bowl is just a few hours away, but many Ohio State fans still have questions about the Buckeyes that they'd like to have answered before they take the field. Ben Axelrod does his best to do just that, while also fielding questions about his current location of South Beach.

Perhaps it's fitting that my Orange Bowl-centric mailbag falls on Mailbag III, as WrestleMania III is forever known as one of the best of all time. That one had Hulk Hogan body slamming Andre The Giant and Randy Savage facing Ricky Steamboat in what very well may be the best professional wrestling match, ever.

The Orange Bowl certainly has its share of stars, and unlike WrestleMania III, it's taking place in Miami and not Detroit. So with that in mind, here are your questions about the game and the city that LeBron took his talents to.

As always, these are actual questions from actual readers.

Q: Is the team focused and ready? Not just lip service.
-FinsburyLA

BA: As I write this, it's hard for me to say so.

Ever since Ohio State got down here, it's carried a weird vibe with it. From the "personal issue" that kept Noah Spence from making the trip (turned out to be a three-game suspension from the Big Ten for breaking conference rules) to the 24-hour flu bug that seems to have affected half the team to Bradley Roby probably not playing due to an injury, it seems like one bad thing happening after another for the Buckeyes.

The players and coaches are all saying the right things, and I wouldn't expect anything less from them. And while the players who are here and are playing can't control the circumstances that have been handed to them, it's just hard not to notice a negative energy surrounding the team.

How that manifests itself on the field remains to be seen.

Q: What is percentage that you have Will Smith's "Welcome to Miami" on your iPod and you've listened to it or plan on listening to it over the next week?
-MagicBus

Q: Are you in the city where the heat is on all night on the beach until the break of dawn?
-buckeyebauer88

Q: Speaking of "Welcome to Miami" could you please rank your top three songs about cities. Thank you!
-Brickeye

BA: Will Smith, Rick Ross, and Pitbull have made up about 95 percent of my listening over the past month since we found out the Buckeyes would be playing in Miami. The other five percent consists of random rap songs referencing South Beach (Wale's "Miami Nights" and Drake's verse in "Aston Martin Music."). Truth be told, I'm not even a Ross fan, but when in Miami...

As for my top three songs about cities, it's hard to argue with Big Willie's "Welcome To Miami." The song is simply iconic, describes Miami perfectly, and fits what late-90s pop music was all about to a T. "Big Willie Style" is an all-time album in my book.

After that, I'm going to give Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" a nod. From the classic Alicia Keys hook to Hov's brilliance throughout the verses, it beats out every other random rap song about New York City. I still remember cracking a smile when I first heard him say "I made a Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can." Because it's true.

As for No. 3? I know I'm going to get a lot of crap if I don't include O.A.R.'s "Road Outside Columbus," but to me, that song doesn't describe Columbus so much as it describes an experience. Minus the line about Riverside Dr. (how random), it doesn't really get into specifics about the Buckeye State. In that spirit, I'm going to have to go to Ludacris and Jermaine Dupri's "Welcome To Atlanta," which barely beats out Nelly's "Country Grammar." I suspect that these answers will not go over particularly well on the message board.

Q: If Spence doesn't make the trip, who steps in at the Viper role?
-buckeye1976

BA: It sounds as though it'll be Jamal Marcus making the start in Spence's absence, although Steve Miller should see significant playing time as well.

And while Spence is an All-Big Ten defensive lineman, there are worse positions for the Buckeyes to lose a player at. I actually think that Marcus was underutilized at times this season, and he still managed to record two sacks in limited action. He's been a pass rush specialist since making the move from linebacker to Viper, so defending the run from that spot will be relatively new for him, although I suspect that's where Miller's presence will be a plus.

On a side note, how cool of a name for a defensive end position is Viper? We asked Mike Vrabel during the season if ‘Viper" was any different from ‘Leo' (what the position used to be called) and he simply said that Viper just sounded cooler. And when Vrabel says that something is cool, I don't disagree.

Q: Which of these Miami legends would you rather party with:

A. Bernie Kosar & his daughter

B. Crockett & Tubbs

C. Uncle Luke
-daddy34

BA: As a Browns fan, it'd be tough for me to pass on the opportunity to party with Bernie, although I guess I'd have to say no as I wouldn't want to be the one to break his sobriety. His daughter on the other hand? Well, never mind.

Assuming it's the Colin Farrell/Jamie Foxx rendition of Crockett and Tubbs, the Miami Vice crew certainly makes a strong case, although I'm going to have to go with Uncle Luke. I'd imagine that we'd dress in all camo and party like it was 1988, while giving Nevin Shapiro-like handouts to Miami Hurricanes.

The sheer fact that Uncle Luke would allow me to party with the likes of Warren Sapp, Michael Irvin, and Ray Lewis makes him the obvious choice, although a night like that could very be the very last of my life for a multitude of reasons that I don't think I'm legally allowed to discuss.

Q: Biggest X-factor?
-Ricky, Hilliard

BA: It has to be Braxton Miller's ability to throw the ball.

With all of the injuries and the suspension of Spence, I've already more or less given up on the Ohio State defense. I think that this game will be a shootout, as I am equally as confident in the Buckeyes' ability to move the ball as I am Clemson's.

But while I know that Carlos Hyde will be able to run the ball -- I think Ahman Green's Orange Bowl record of 206 is in trouble -- I don't know what I'm going to get from Miller. For whatever reason, he's looked shaky since the start of November, and his inefficiency in the Big Ten Championship Game was a big reason why Michigan State came out on top.

Miller has a chance to erase that memory and potentially end his college career on a positive note with a big performance against the Tigers. Whether or not he does that remains to be seen, but I've seen so many highs and some recent lows that make me unsure of what we'll be getting from No. 5 in scarlet.

Q: Will LeBron be on the sidelines for the game?
-Rovers

BA: I'd be shocked if he wasn't. And Hyde told me earlier this week that he expects him to be there, so we'll see. With the game being in his new hometown and King James being a self-proclaimed alum of the "scarlet and red," I don't know why he wouldn't make his presence felt on the Buckeyes' sideline.

On a side note, spending a week down here has given me a new perspective on The Decision. I'm 25 years old -- the same age LeBron was when he left Cleveland -- and I'm not sure I'm ever coming back from this trip. I mean, it's the beginning of January, and I'm currently sitting by the pool with my shirt off. That doesn't happen in Ohio, let alone the Northeast part of it. Not in the middle of winter.

Not only did playing for the Heat give James more talent, a more stable organization -- have you seen the Cavs lately? -- and an easier shot at multiple rings, but he gets to spend his winter months in the warmest city in the country. I know athletes can live anywhere they want during the offseason and they're traveling for most of the regular season, but there's something special about Miami. It really is a unique place.

And it's warm. In December.

Q: You have a score prediction?
-MagicBus

BA: I'm not really one to pick specific numbers (although I'm required to each week), but at one point this week, I thought it'd be a lot to a little. Now I tend to think that it will be a lot to a lot.

Call me a pessimist (I know you will anyway), but I just can't shake this weird, negative energy that seems to be around the program.

It's hard to pick against Urban Meyer's 7-1 record in bowl games, as well as his track record with multiple weeks to prepare, but I just don't see a team with its eye on the prize at this moment. When you factor in that Clemson's strength -- passing -- matches up favorably with the Buckeyes' weakness -- pass defense -- I just don't know how I could justify picking Ohio State to win this game.

Conversely, OSU's strength -- running -- meshes well with the Tigers' weakness -- run defense -- so I guess you never really know. I do think that Clemson will ultimately win this game, but I think that it will be close. At this very moment, I have the Tigers winning by a score of 56-45, but like I said, numbers have really never been my thing.

Q: Have you done any coke yet??
-Tim, Saint Louis

BA: These are my readers. And no.


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