Posted by Bryan Fischer
MIAMI -- Is Oklahoma going to the Pac-12? Did you see LSU's defense Thursday night? The NCAA reinstated someone from Boise State!
The world of college football this year seems to be about everything but the games six days a week. Saturday, of course, things stop. There's tailgates and touchdowns, quarterbacks and queso, defensive backs and racks full of ribs.
Likewise, much to Mark Emmert, Donna Shalla and E. Gordon Gee's chagrin, Saturday's primetime match up between Miami and Ohio State has seemingly been about everything but what will take place at Sun Life Stadium. The Ineligible Bowl. The Tats and Cash Fiesta. The Yahoo! Sports Bowl. Convict Boosters vs. well… Convict Boosters.
For what it's worth though, there will be no boosters on the sideline according to Miami officials.
Everyday this week, it seemed that each program was in the news for off the field distractions. Tuesday, the NCAA reinstated three Buckeyes after accepting money - via disgraced quarterback Terrelle Pryor - from a booster. On Thursday, Miami's most famous booster, Uncle Luke, announced plans to sue Miami's most infamous booster, Nevin Shapiro. Before the game on the field, games were played in the headlines during the run-up.
"What has been our strategy? Just focus on what we can control," Hurricanes head coach Al Golden said. "Again, I keep saying it. No one on our staff was involved with anything that occurred here, and 90% of our team wasn't.
"There are some distractions there. There are a lot of things. I'm sure Coach (Luke) Fickell has the same issues in terms of every move that you make requires a double move basically."
Golden's starter at quarterback tomorrow, Jacory Harris was suspended for the opener, a loss to Maryland. He's looking to make up for his performance in the Horseshoe last year when he threw four interceptions in a 36-24 loss. For a team looking to put it all out on the field after a rough month off of it, perhaps it is fitting that the Hurricanes' fate will rest on someone who was taken off of it for eligibility issues.
Beyond last year's loss and Harris' issues though, this game means something to Miami. They're looking to avoid an 0-2 start for the first time since 1978 and end their four game losing streak. It's Golden's home debut leading the Hurricanes as well, something the team is clearly focused on - not the nicknames for their Ohio State showdown.
“He's been through the thick and thin with us through this whole [NCAA investigation]," senior Travis Benjamin said. ”We just want to come out and get a W for coach Golden.”
The Buckeyes are not without their own issues as they take their slightly less talented roster to South Beach. The team struggled last week and almost lost to Toledo were it not for John Simon's interception of the Rockets' backup quarterback late in the game. They'll be without four key players due to suspension in receiver DeVier Posey, tackle Mike Adams, running back Dan Herron and backup end Soloman Thomas. Those four will stay in Ohio while the other member of the Buckeye Five will be in Oakland. Not that anyone will bring any of that up.
"We hope and we think that this is what the game is all about, to be able to handle adversity and we believe it's going to make us stronger in the long run," Fickell said. "It starts from the top down. We can't let it affect me so that we can't let it affect them, as well."
Speaking of suspended players, Miami has at the early lead going on: they'll get back five players to Ohio State's three.
The Hurricanes will likely play a key role in the game as well. Linebacker Sean Spence will be a key defender in the middle of the defense behind linemen Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo. A speedy receiver, Benjamin should also provide a boost for the offense. Starting running back Jordan Hall, corner Travis Howard and reserve safety Corey Brown are back for the Buckeyes.
It won't quite be the 2003 Fiesta Bowl in terms of talent on the field but there's no ignoring how big a game it is between the two programs who are not on friendly terms.
"We try not to focus on, `Hey, this is a national game because of Miami and their great history and Ohio State's great history,'" Fickell said. "We're still making sure we understand it's one game at a time, like we always say, but it's still about getting better. It's a chance to obviously test ourselves."
Miami's home opener will be emotional. Ohio State is no doubt looking to silence critics. There will be story lines aplenty.
But as 7:30 eastern rolls around, it will - finally - be just a game.