The Buckeyes travel to Coral Gables on Saturday for the first planned test of the season.
On the road for the first time, under the lights, against the always talented (but not always disciplined) Hurricanes, the game will certainly be a challenge.
For the Buckeyes to come away with a victory, they will need to improve across the board following their lackluster performance against the Toledo Rockets last weekend.
The good news on that front is the reinstatement of starting RB Jordan Hall, starting CB Travis Howard, back-up safety Corey Brown, and the return of suspended guard Corey Linsley.
These players will make the Buckeyes better.
The bad news is that starting LEO Nathan Williams will be out again this week, and his absence will continue indefinitely after getting his knee scoped.
Faced with these opportunities and challenges, the Buckeyes look to earn their third victory of the season.
Here are my keys to the game.
Get physical. Get aggressive. Run the Hurricanes into the ground.
Miami has some of the best athletes in the country. What they don’t have is the toughness and fortitude to play smash mouth football for four quarters.
Behind the offensive line and Zach Boren, controlling the line of scrimmage, going straight at the Hurricane defenders and flat out running them over early and often will establish the attitude the Buckeyes need to win.
This key will be most important at the beginning of the game to establish the tone and at the end of the game to kill the clock (obviously the hope here is to have the lead).
In between, the Buckeyes will need to find different ways to attack the defense to prevent a one-dimensional repeat of the performance against Toledo.
Get creative. Get aggressive. Get Jordan Hall the ball in space. Get Braxton Miller on the field.
I’m not joking around this time Jim Bollman.
Toledo was able to stack the box, focus on the flats, and successfully limit what Ohio State was able to do on offense last week.
If Toledo can do it, the Hurricanes can do it.
The return of Jordan Hall to the starting lineup should provide a tremendous boost in offensive creativity for this game (thank you very much NCAA) if the coaches decide to take advantage with their play calling.
All summer, fans read stories about the dynamic ways that Jordan Hall was being used on offense- now is the time to see it in a game.
Getting Braxton Miller on the field more will help as well.
The good news is that it won’t be hard to raise the bar set against Toledo, but there is a bit of uncertainty here.
How much will Braxton Miller play? will he come out with both guns blazing and shock the world? or will he be rusty and nervous on the road after a week off?
We’ll find out soon enough.
No matter how they do it, the Buckeyes absolutely cannot be one dimensional on offense this week.
This one isn’t complicated.
On the road, against a team with a well-earned reputation for undisciplined play, not turning the ball over will provide a huge advantage.
Pressure the QB. Force turnovers.
Miami QB Jacory Harris is known for turning the ball over- the Buckeyes need to take advantage of that.
Whether it be through defensive line stunts, blitzes, extra effort from the players, or some combination of all of the above, controlling the line of scrimmage and pressuring the backfield will be crucial.
If the team can pick up where they left off against Toledo, they should be in good shape.
The loss of Nathan Williams is a significant hit, but the theme this season is “next man in”, and the players on the field need to step up and make plays behind the inspired play of John Simon and Big Hank.
It will be a major challenge, but if successful, dominating the line of scrimmage in this game will give the young defenders and veterans alike the confidence to tackle (no pun intended) the major challenges still to come on the schedule.
Win the field position battle. No big plays.
In any big game, and especially in any big game when your team tends to play conservatively on offense, winning the field position battle is priority number one.
This one crosses over from defense to special teams, so add “no big returns” to the headline as well (I guess technically I could do that myself since I am writing this, but doing it this way helps to make a point).
Pinning Miami deep in their own territory on kick-offs and punts will take a lot of pressure off of the Silver Bullets.
That combined with limiting the number of big plays will force the Hurricanes to sustain drives and increase their opportunities to make mistakes.
The Rockets were able to gain yards in chunks at times last week and it changed the entire balance of the game. The coaching staff showed that in a close game, their willingness to take chances and play Braxton Miller drops substantially.
Responding to quick scoring drives and getting into an offensive shoot-out is the last thing Ohio State needs in this or any other game.
Against the Hurricanes, playing better on the perimeter and in space and reducing the number of big plays they give up is a necessity.