First Annual National Championship Preview

I thought of doing this yearly feature back in 1968 but I didn't want to jinx the Buckeyes that year ("Hey Fred - Joe's got a no-hitter and it's the eighth inning. How come no one's talkin' about it?"). Then in 1969, it just seemed silly. After all, that Ohio State team was so good that no one was gonna beat ‘em (sound familiar, Canes?). Well, I forgot to calculate in Bo's Revenge Factor.

Skip ahead to 1970 and - once again - we had an unbeatable juggernaut, plus they knew better than to look past Michigan. But the 1970 Buckeyes didn't look far enough to Stanford and Jim Plunkett.

So, I put off my "Annual Buckeye Championship" column to 1973 when Ohio State had their best team of all time. I planned on writing a scathingly funny and compelling column right after the Michigan game. But a 10-10 tie later and, holy Woody, there was nothing to write about.

The years passed (or rolled, if you will…), and I grew too weary during the Earle Era and then too cynical that St. Cooper wasn't going to lead us to the Promised Land. The championship column went into the proverbial mothballs.

After all, the idea of an annual championship column pre-supposes that you get to write it annually. Not once every 3 or 5 or 34 years. But put away those mothballs now, kids, because the Buckeyes are back. We are playing for the national championship and are odds-on favorites to be rated in the Top Three for the 2003 season. So it's time to kick it off and take a look at Mr. Bucknuts finally saying his long-suffering sooth:

We're taking on Miami and here's my take on it.

First off, here's what I would do if I ran the OSU coaching staff. I would come out to stuff the run and I would play my corners up close to the line to mess with Miami's aggressive aerial attack. Nickey has to be the safety net. On offense, I would give the ball to MC-13 and let him pick mis-direction holes to offset the over-reacting defense. And I would take advantage of the vaunted Miami speed by throwing slants, TE over the middle, and flares to the running backs. Pick-pick-pick. Frustrate them and show a different look than they've studied on film. Make them think.

Secondly, here's what I am worried about. Ohio State has frequently taken a series or two to adjust to game speed and then they've shut down everyone. Miami's team speed is better than anyone we've played to-date. And they've outscored the opposition 120-24 in the first quarter. If we get behind 14-0 early, the Miami swagger will be killer. And disgusting to look at…

My third thought: here's what we've got to do to stay in the game. Controlling the clock by itself doesn't mean much when you're playing a team that can casually go 80 yards in less than two minutes. But it does eliminate the touches that the Hurricanes get, and it ups the Frustration Factor. We need to stretch out the Miami D by going deep once or twice to keep them back but then hope-and-pray for Maurice to do his thing. We've got to stay away from trickery. And we've got to be outstanding on special teams - like we've been all year ("The punt is the most important play in football"). Make Dorsey move around. He might look like Jim Kelly throwing the ball when he has time but he looks like Bernie Kosar running the ball when he doesn't have time. McGahee? We've given up just 78 yards rushing per game. And Miami? They've given up 171 yards. We can take them on the ground. We have to…

Other thoughts of significance:

1. Turnovers can keep us in this game or make it a Miami blowout. If we get one early, it could swing the whole affair. If we give one up early, we could be tourists in Tempe.

2. We need to make something happen on special teams. A block. A big return. Cause a fumble. Cocky and fast teams are sloppy teams when it comes to discipline areas (i.e. special teams) and we could have a pronounced advantage there.

3. We need to get to the Miami back-ups. Hey - we talking sportsmanship here or winning? Eh? I'm just talking hard-hitting. What did Wisconsin do to Colorado, as an example? Do we know what Derrick Crudup can do as a Dorsey replacement? And how good is Jarrett Payton when he spells McGahee? Let's find out…

4. Pray for Dustin Fox. The guy is a hell of an athlete but is a safety playing cornerback out of necessity. He's going to get isolated at some point and has to have the game of his life. And a little luck.

5. Pray for Chris Gamble. He not only has to have a great coverage game but he's got to cover us with a big play sometime during the game or else we don't…well, cover.

6. Take back the home team advantage. We will have the crowd on our side but we sure didn't take advantage of that in our "road game" at Cincinnati. Let Miami press when they hear the throngs. Let them remember the 34 game streak. The back-to-back titles. The huge expectations.

Which brings us to the all-important Arrogance Factor. Much like the Bo's Revenge Factor (see above), college football is still a game of emotion and willing oneself to win. Ohio State has been on both sides of the Arrogance Factor over the years but we have played on the right side this year. Miami? They are planning parties back home already. This is just a "speed bump in the desert" in the Miami psyche.

Hey - the athletes in this game are not separated by much in talent and ability. Our Florida guys (Vance, Gamble, Bishop, Ross and Jenkins) can play a little ball. You want athletes? Who would you trade for Clarett, Doss, Wilhelm, Smith, Scott, Grant or Anderson? Yeah, we got athletes. And they are gonna be bringing it come Friday.

Miami's arrogance? It was summed up nicely by our sister site, CanesTime, which wrote a similar critique to the one you are reading now. And you think I am wearing scarlet colored glasses? Listen to these orange-colored analyses:

1. Special Teams. Edge? Even. Despite the fact that we have an All-American punter and an All-American field goal kicker and that their punter has been blocked three times and that he shanked the biggest kick of his life against Florida State and that their field goal kicker is less than average and…well, that's more than arrogance. That's chutzpah.

2. Quarterback analysis: Craig Krenzel has ZERO mobility. Do not expect Ohio State to pass for 100 yards in the entire game. Look for single digits in total completions. This is a team that gave up 45 points to Virginia Tech? This is the same Krenzel who probably won three games for the Bucks this year with his feet? Sheesh…

3. Final score: Miami 44-10

We will have the CanesTime guys on our radio show Tuesday after the Purdue-Washington game. Yeah, we'll discuss it. But this arrogance - well, perhaps it's "warranted" but it also might turn into OSU's best weapon. As the old Buckeye coach Lou Holtz said, "Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it".

So, we've talked the talk. The teams have to walk the walk. And let me say this about that:

Mr. Bucknuts predicts: If we can weather the early Hurricane fury, if we can get to Dorsey and control the clock a bit, if Maurice can do his thing and Willis can't, if we win the turnover battle and beat them on special teams, we will win 27-21.

If we get swamped by early points or heartbreaking turnovers, if we can't stop their wide-outs and can't get Maurice loose, if we can't contain McGahee, if we can't make anything happen on special teams, then we lose 27-10.

I bet the former.

And that we will shock the world…

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