12 National Titles. 9 Heismans. 113 Consensus All-Americans. 81 players currently on NFL rosters.
Ray Lewis. Cris Carter. Michael Irvin. Jack Tatum. Warren Sapp. Orlando Pace. Jim Kelly. Eddie George. Bernie Kosar. Archie Griffin.
A lot of history will be swirling around Ohio Stadium this Saturday when the University of Miami Hurricanes (the U) and The Ohio State Buckeyes take the field. If it’s anything like the last time these two storied college football programs crashed into each other, the 2003 Tostito’s Fiesta Bowl BCS National Championship Game, there will be multitudes of fans on the edge of barstools and sofas wringing their hands, pulling their hair, and shouting at televisions.
By Hans Hetrick
The two programs have endured drastically different fates since that Fiesta Bowl classic. In fact, their roles have to some degree, reversed. In 2003, Miami was riding a jaw-dropping 34 game winning streak and overflowing with NFL talent. The Buckeyes were upstarts, squeaking by in their last three regular season games to piece together an improbable 13-0 record.
In 2010, the ‘Canes are looking up at the Bucks. Although Ohio State is not nearly as dominant as the Hurricanes of the early 2000s, they have consistently remained in the conversation when it comes to college football’s elite. Miami under coach Larry Coker, slowly crumbled following the 2003 showdown against the Buckeyes. Coker capitalized on the immense talent and strong organization his predecessor, Butch Davis, instilled at the U. Coker and the ‘Canes squashed Nebraska in the 2002 BCS National Championship Game and plowed through to an undefeated 2002 season.
However, after the loss to Ohio State, Coker and the U football program squandered the momentum built up over their incredible run. After a 7-6 season in 2006, Coker was unceremoniously terminated. The 2003 upset loss to Ohio State was the tipping point for the U’s last dynasty.
It hasn’t been all roses and sunshine for the Buckeyes since 2003. Coach Jim Tressel has fielded high-quality football teams year in and year out. The Buckeyes have claimed five of a possible seven Big Ten titles. They have played six BCS bowl games winning 3 and losing 3, two of those losses in BCS National Championship Games.
If these facts are absorbed straight up, then the Buckeye nation could hold their heads high, dauntless and clear of conscience. But the details of the two BCS National Championship Game defeats, a 41-14 shellacking against Florida and a 38-24 beating from LSU, taint the Buckeye’s exemplary record since the 2003 title.
Both teams will have something to prove on Saturday. Since replacing Larry Coker, Miami coach Randy Shannon has carefully crafted a formidable football program. His determined demeanor and steady progress at the helm of the U is a strong indication that Miami will rise to college football prominence again. And what could be more symbolic of the return of big-time Miami football than defeating the team that sent the program into a tailspin? A win against Ohio State and the Hurricane fans can start feeling like 2002 all over again.
Ohio State has plenty to prove as well. The 2010 Buckeyes are loaded with 17 returning letterman from an 11-2 2009 squad. This team is Tressel’s most talented since his 2006 Troy Smith-led squad. Miami represents the first of at least four treacherous mountains the Buckeye’s must scale (Wisconsin, Iowa, and pick either Michigan or Penn State—at least one of those two will be a barnburner) in order to play for a 2011 title. Maybe then, the Buckeye nation can start feeling like 2003 all over again.