It’s possible that Miami could become a national contender before it wins a title in its own ACC Coastal Division.
Then again, it’s also possible things stay status quo in Coral Gables for at least another season.
Saturday’s game at No. 2 Ohio State will reveal just how far Miami has come in four seasons under coach Randy Shannon. The matchup is reminiscent of Miami’s glory days, as it’s the first meeting between the two schools since they met in the national championship game at the 2003 Fiesta Bowl.
The difference this time around is that the Buckeyes are the ones who have been getting all the glory -- and deservedly so. Expectations are high for the Rose Bowl champs, who boast a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Terrelle Pryor and one of the stingiest defenses in the country.
The implications of a win loom large for Miami. An upset of the Buckeyes would immediately skyrocket Miami into the national picture and give the program its first win over a Top 5 team since beating No. 3 Virginia Tech, 27-7, in Blacksburg on Oct. 13, 2005. It would also be the first win over Ohio State since 1999.
“The opportunity we have on Saturday is going to be huge for us,” said linebacker Colin McCarthy. “It’s going to give us an opportunity to get back to where we know we should be. As far as our mindset going into this game, it’s going to be tough. The atmosphere at Ohio State is not the easiest place to play at, but we’ve played in big games and I think we’re ready for the opportunity.”
Ohio State is coming off a 45-7 win over Marshall last Thursday, in which the offense racked up 529 total yards. Pryor led a balanced offense with 247 yards passing and three touchdowns, while the Buckeyes held Marshall to just 199 yards.
McCarthy said the Canes respect Pryor and his offensive line, and they’re preparing for the Buckeyes to establish the run first and then try to beat them with deep passes.
“He’s a dual threat quarterback,” McCarthy said. “He can run the ball and pass the ball. We have to limit him to doing just one. I think that will put us in the best situation to win.”
The Hurricanes are 6-2 against Top 5 teams since the 2000 season, with the lone losses coming at No. 5 Florida in 2008 and against Ohio State in the 2003 national championship game. The loss to the Gators is the Hurricanes’ only loss against a Top 5 team in a true road game since the Canes lost at No. 2 Virginia Tech during the 1999 season.
“We’re looking at it as just another game on the schedule, but at the same time, there’s a lot of meaning behind this game,” said receiver LaRon Byrd. “They’re a great team. I know it’s going to be a good game, the media’s going to hype it up, the fans are going to be riled up. We’ve just got to go in and play confident and work on our assignments and execute.”