College football has a lot of great games this week: Alabama vs. Penn State, Oklahoma vs. Florida State, Notre Dame vs. Michigan, and even Florida vs. South Florida is compelling after the Gators' lackluster play last week. None of these games, however, is as big as the showdown at the 'Shoe: Ohio State vs. Miami. While the Oklahoma-Florida State contest comes close, this game between the Buckeyes and the Hurricanes will have the most bearing on the national championship and Heisman Trophy races than all of the others.
Each team has had a few extra days to prepare after they easily disposed of Marshall and Florida A&M in their openers over a week ago. Both Miami and Ohio State need this win for many of the same reasons. Besides the national championship and Heisman implications, the winning team will get a big boost to its national image. Since these two teams last met to play for the 2002 National Championship, their national images have been tarnished.
Miami had won its last 34 games before the controversial loss to Ohio State, which was Larry Coker's only loss in his first two season on the job for Miami. Four years later, Coker had lost control of the program. Miami had slipped to 7-6, and the Hurricanes had several off the field issues. Miami fell even further (5-7) in Randy Shannon's first season (2007). Shannon has been working diligently to bring Miami back to the top. A win on Saturday would go a long way in accomplishing that.
Ohio State has had great success on the field since they last played Miami, winning 73 games in the seven years that have followed. The Buckeyes' problem has been that on the rare occasions that they do lose, they lose ugly. Those ugly losses have usually been on big stages: 41-14 against Florida in the 2006 National Championship game, 38-24 against LSU in the 2007 National Championship game, and back-to-back losses to USC in 2008 and 2009. The Rose Bowl win at the end of last season helped, but beating a rising Miami squad will silence a greater number of critics.
Ohio State and Miami both have experienced players. They both have talented players. The team that will end on top will be the one that is hungrier for the win.
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