Scouting Report

Fiesta Bowl

January 03, 2003|By Don Markus

Miami run offense vs. Ohio State run defense

Sophomore Willis MeGahee has been a one-man scoring- machine for the Hurricanes, wracking up a school-record and Division I-best 27 touchdowns this season. His 1,686-yard total is also a Miami record. McGahee runs behind a line that averages 306 pounds and includes the best center in college fbotball, senior Brett Romberg. The Buckeyes limited Heisman Trophy candidate Larry Johnson of Penn State to 66 yards on 16 carries, held the opposition to a shade under 79 yards a game and allowed just three rushing touchdowns the entire season, none of in their last five games. Senior linebacker led Ohio State with 111 tackles.

Edge: Miami.

Miami pass offense vs. Ohio State pass defense

Senior quarterback Ken Dorsey had a good, but not great, season for the Hurricanes. What makes Dorsey effective is McGahee's presence in the backfield, as well as Andre Johnson's big-play ability downfield. If McGahee gets off to a good start, Dorsey should have a field day against the Buckeyes. If Dorsey's protection breaks down, the Hurricanes might be in trouble. The key for Miami will be trying to get Johnson into man-to-man coverage against Ohio State's Dustin Fox rather than All-Big Ten cornerback Chris Gamble. The Buckeyes likely will play a lot of zone to slow down Johnson and tight end Kellen Winslow.

Edge: Miami.

Ohio State run offense vs. Miami run defense

When healthy, freshman Maurice Clarett is one of the most dangerous tailbacks in the country. He ran over Washington State for 230 yards and two touchdowns in his second game, but has fought injuries for much of the season. Despite a bruised shoulder, he ran for 119 yards and a touchdown against Michigan in the regular-season finale. With nearly seven weeks to recover, Clarett should be at full strength. If the Hurricanes have a weakness, it's in their rushing defense. Miami's opponents ran for nearly as many yards (2,057) as the Hurricanes (2,314), including 363 by West Virginia. Junior linebacker Jonathan Vilma is a big hitter, but can get beat in the open field.

Edge: Ohio State.

Ohio State pass offense vs. Miami pass defense

Senior quarterback Craig Krenzel might be one of the most underrated players in the country. His 14-1 record as a starter might not be as impressive as Dorsey's 38-1 mark, but the Buckeyes wouldn't be playing in the national championship game if not for the molecular genetics major. Krenzel might not have anybody to throw to as explosive as Miami's Johnson, but the combination of Michael Jenkins and Gamble gives Krenzel some options. Though the Hurricanes lost four starters from their defensive backfield -- including Ed Reed with the Ravens -- their replacements have been solid. Junior safety Maurice Sikes had three interceptions, including a 97-yard return for a touchdown in an early season rout of Florida.

Edge: Even.

Special teams

Ohio State kicker Mike Nugent came back from a shaky freshman year to make a school-record 24 of 26 field-goal attempts this season, including a stretch of 23 straight. He was a finalist for the Lou Groza Award. Nine of his successful attempts were from 40 yards or longer, another school record. He also made all but one of his 42 extra-point tries. Punter Andy Groom was named a first-team All-American by the Football Writers Association of America, averaging 44.6 yards per kick. Miami's Todd Sievers wasn't as sharp this season as he was last year, making 12 of 20 field-goal attempts. Freddie Capshaw punted well the last four games, averaging 45.4 yards, but had trouble earlier in the season. Jason Geathers, who backs up McGahee at tailback, is a dangerous return man for the Hurricanes.

Edge: Ohio State.

Coaches

In his second year at Miami, Larry Coker has yet to lose a game. He won a national championship in his first try and could become the first coach to win titles in each of his first two seasons. A former quarterbacks coach with the Hurricanes who once was an assistant at Ohio State, Coker, with a low-key personality, has enabled Miami to stay in control when the games get tight. Jim Tressel is also in his second season at Ohio State, but his 15 seasons at Youngstown State produced four Division I-AA national championships. Tressel plays everything close to the vest, so don't expect the Buckeyes to try any trick plays against the Hurricanes.

Edge: Miami.

Prediction

On paper, the Hurricanes appear to have too much depth, speed and talent for the Buckeyes. But Miami often seems to play to the level and style of the competition, which could play into Ohio State's hands. If Miami is as focused as it was last year in the first half against Nebraska in the Rose Bowl, the results could be similar. If the game is close in the third quarter, the Buckeyes seem to have a way to win close games. This might be a repeat of two years ago, when defense-minded Oklahoma upset heavy favorite Florida State in the Orange Bowl national championship game.

Miami 27, Ohio State 17.

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