Coming off a 45-7 season-opening victory over Marshall, Ohio State welcomes the No. 13 Miami Hurricanes to the Horseshoe on Saturday for one of the college football season’s most anticipated matchups.
With the two storied programs squaring off for the first time since their historic national title bout nearly eight years ago, OSU’s last national championship win, coach Jim Tressel admitted that game might heighten the intrigue of this week’s contest.
“I think anytime you’ve competed before, there’s a natural sort of rivalry,” Tressel said. “Will that make any difference? Not compared to the decisions we make on the field and the execution we have, but will it add a little bit more fun to it? Absolutely.”
Despite all the talk of Miami seeking redemption for its heartbreaking loss in Tempe, Ariz., in 2003, junior center Michael Brewster said the Buckeyes aren’t getting caught up in the hype.
“The big thing is we do our talking in between the white lines and that is what we’re going to do Saturday,” he said.
And with all the hype and storylines surrounding Saturday’s matchup, Tressel had plenty to discuss at Tuesday’s weekly press conference.
Pryor vs. Harris
Following an efficient showing against Marshall, for which Tressel said Terrelle Pryor received his highest ever coach’s performance grade, the junior quarterback will go up against another of the nation’s premiere quarterbacks, Miami’s Jacory Harris. Tressel noted that their paths to this point have been much the same.
“I think they’ve traveled a similar road. They both got put in there at an early point in their freshman year,” he said. “(They) had to kind of get thrown in with an older group and learn their way to take control of the huddle and then show it through their execution that they belonged there.
“I think there’s a lot of teams in college football that would like to have those guys as their quarterback.”
Boasting an injury-riddled defense last week, the Silver Bullets should be nearing 100 percent this week. The most notable return is junior defensive end Nathan Williams, who sat out in week one with a knee injury. Tressel said Williams is back in action and ready to go.
“I think the thing that you have to be careful with is guys that miss some training camp and all of a sudden if you think they can go out there and play 50 some snaps, I think you’re risking a little bit,” Tressel said. “So what we have to figure out in the course of this week is just how many snaps is he ready to go. But he seems to be ready to go.”
Safety Orhian Johnson, backup middle linebacker Storm Klein and senior cornerback Chimdi Chekwa all will be ready to play, Tressel said.
Moeller earns conference recognition
After sitting out all of last year with a head injury, senior defensive back Tyler Moeller came back with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove against Marshall.
Leading the team in tackles with seven and recording OSU’s only sack, Moeller’s return to football was acknowledged this week as he received Big Ten defensive player of the week honors.
“I think he came back for his first game playing just like the old Tyler Moeller and even better,” Chekwa said. “I think he made some good open-field tackles and he brought a lot of energy to the field.”
Sabino “day-by-day” redshirt
With the return of Storm Klein from a hamstring injury, Tressel said that right now the plan is to redshirt junior linebacker Etienne Sabino, who was in contention for a starting spot through much of the offseason.
“We’re kind of redshirting him, but redshirting is a day-by-day thing, so he’s got no injury issues or nothing outside of football that’s a reason for him not playing,” Tressel said. “So for this moment, he’s redshirting and if everyone’s healthy going into the ball game, we’ll probably hold him from the ball game.”
Battle in the trenches
The Hurricanes feature a quick and strong defensive line, and Tressel said his offensive line is in for a “great challenge.”
“If we can have a good week of figuring out what it is we think Miami might try to do and at least be mentally prepared, now we’ll find out who can do what on Saturday.”
Brewster said facing the OSU defensive line in practice everyday has prepared him and his fellow offensive linemen for the challenge that Miami’s defensive front four presents.
“Going against (Dexter Larimore( and Big Hank (Johnathan Hankins) and Cam (Heyward) and those guys in practice, they’re great. We make each other better,” said Brewster. “Sometimes games feel a little bit easier than practice because those guys are so good.”
Running back by committee
Rushing for 103 yards on just nine carries, senior captain Brandon Saine showcased his superior running abilities against the Thundering Herd. But Tressel said he was most impressed with junior Dan “Boom” Herron.
Despite gaining just 44 yards, it was Herron’s resolve that stood out to his coach.
“Sometimes you’re coming out of halftime and it’s 35-7 or whatever it was and some guys might say, well, you know, let’s think about the next game or whatever,” Tressel said. “I thought Boom sparked that drive. It was an 80-yard drive. I thought he broke some tackles. You can’t take ‘Boom’ (Herron) out of the mix, but that’s not to discount Saine. He was excellent.
“Both those guys have got to keep getting better and better and we’re lucky those are two good ones.”