||Wednesday, January 1
Updated: January 2, 4:55 PM ET
20 reasons why Miami will beat Ohio State
By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN The Magazine
TEMPE, Ariz. -- I'll make it short and sweet: Miami 31, Ohio State 20.
Let me count the 20 ways. . .
1. Pure talent. Generally speaking, you can judge a roster by how many players are drafted by the NFL. Last season's UM championship team had 11 players picked. This time, depending on what underclassmen Willis McGahee and Andre Johnson decide (we're guessing they're gone), the number should be between 7-10 draftees. Players win games and the Hurricanes simply have a better supply of better players.
2. Experience. This is Miami's second consecutive appearance in the national title game, its sixth since 1990. The Hurricane players and coaches are accustomed to these type of games and the pressures that come with it. Ohio State hasn't won a national championship since LBJ was in office.
4. History. No team has won back-to-back titles since the Cornhuskers did it in 1994-95. And a win against Ohio State would keep alive Miami's 34 -- and counting -- victory streak. That would put them in position to tie Oklahoma's mind-boggling 47-game win streak (1953-57) next season.
5. Motivation. "If we don't win this game, the winning streak doesn't really mean anything," said center Brett Romberg. "OK, Miami won 34 games and they were probably the fourth-best winning streak in history, but nobody remembers that -- who cares? If we finish this job, there will be books written about us. And if we don't, then we're just another college football team that won 34 games and they could have pulled off the Fiesta Bowl, but they didn't. I'm telling you, man, people are dying to see us lose. It would make their Christmas holidays if Miami lost, it really would. And we're going to do everything in our power not to let that happen, and I don't think it will happen."
6. Maurice Clarett vs. Ohio State pencil pushers. OSU's star tailback is still seething that he wasn't allowed to return home for the funeral of a boyhood friend. He all but said he was misled, ignored or lied to by certain school officials. Will his remarks have a trickle-down effect? Buckeyes coaches and players say no, that Clarett will show up to play, and play hard. But during a week where every distraction is magnified, Clarett's remarks couldn't have helped OSU's cause.
7. Willis McGahee and Ken Dorsey. McGahee finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting. Dorsey finished fifth. Think they'll have a point to prove Friday evening? Dorsey especially will want to make his last game a memorable one.
8. Larry Coker. Just a quick reminder: HE'S NEVER LOST A GAME!
9. Kellen Winslow Jr. The Hurricanes love to use their tight ends. Jeremy Shockey had five catches for 85 yards and a touchdown in last season's championship game. Winslow could have a similar game. I'll take Winslow against any Ohio State linebacker. I'll take the 6-foot-5 Winslow against 5-11 all-America strong safety Mike Doss, who is much better in run-support than pass coverage.
10. Maurice Clarett's shoulder. There's a reason why Tressel didn't allow anyone to hit Clarett during pre-Fiesta practices: an injured shoulder that forced the tailback to miss two games and play only sparingly in two others. The tough Clarett is much healthier, but he still isn't 100 percent. He'll wear a protective harness for the game, but fully expects the Hurricanes to go after the shoulder. He isn't alone. We asked Ohio State free safety Donnie Nickey what he'd do if he had a free shot at a player with an injury. "You take it," he said.
11. Defensive line. Remember that stuff about NFL draftees? Miami has, what, seven future draft picks on its first- and second-team defensive line. Ohio State's offensive line has improved, but it hasn't faced the likes of Jerome McDougle, William Joseph, Matt Walters, Jamaal Green, and Vince Wilfork. Miami had five or more sacks in five games. OSU gave up 31 sacks. Uh, oh.
12. Numbers. Miami has won its last 12 games against ranked opponents. Five of those 12 victories came on the road or neutral site.
13. Been there, done that. McGahee has run against every defense in the book. Eight-, nine-man fronts? McGahee has seen it. Make Dorsey beat you? Sure, no problem. Take the best shot of every opponent? Used to it. "The only thing that will kill us is turnovers and penalties," McGahee said. Translation: nobody can beat the Hurricanes. . . except the Hurricanes.
14. Interested. Sure, Miami phoned it at times during the season. But when the Hurricanes brought their A-game, and even their B-game, the results were scary: UM 41, Florida 16. . . UM 26, Tennessee 3. . . UM 49, Syracuse 7.
15. Sean Taylor. The Hurricanes say he'll leave Miami as the program's best-ever safety. The Fiesta Bowl will be the perfect showcase.
16. Speed. Miami has more of it. "I don't know if they can match our speed, to tell you the truth," said Romberg. There's Hurricanes speed, and then there's everybody else.
17. Attitude. The Hurricanes are ready. Even scout team running back Frank Gore is popping off these days. Gore, who hurt his knee last spring and won't play in a game until next season, says he's better than Clarett. You know what? The Hurricanes think he is, too.
18. More numbers. Miami led the nation in pass defense. No way is Craig Krenzel going to beat the Hurricanes with his arm (the Buckyes were eighth in the Big Ten in total offense). And, yes, Ohio State's fine defense gives up an average of just 12.2 points per game. But this is Miami we're talking about. The Hurricanes score early, often and fast. Of their 67 touchdown drives, the Hurricanes averaged just 1:58. Eighteen of those drives took less than a minute.
19. Playmakers. The Hurricanes have one at nearly every position.
20. Timing. This is Miami's time. Ohio State, which could return every offensive starter next year, will have to wait.
Gene Wojciechowski is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Maisel: 20 reasons why Ohio State wins