Thursday, January 2, 2003

How Fiesta teams match up

By Josh Dubow
The Associated Press

TEMPE, Ariz. - A look at how Ohio State and Miami match up in Friday's Fiesta Bowl.

QUARTERBACK: Miami's Ken Dorsey is out to prove the critics wrong, looking to finish his career 39-1 with two national titles. Wasn't as sharp as in junior year but still threw for 3,073 yards and 26 touchdowns. He doesn't have the strongest arm but is accurate. Gets rid of the ball well and doesn't take sacks, but is prone to interceptions. Ohio State's Craig Krenzel is counted on not to make mistakes. He didn't have great numbers (1,988 yards, 12 TDs) but makes good decisions and can make a big play. Can hurt defenses with his scrambling ability. Edge: Miami.

RUNNING BACKS: Willis McGahee made Miami fans forget Clinton Portis, running for school-record 1,686 yards and 27 TDs in his first season as a starter. He's a playmaker and can score from almost anywhere on the field. FB Quadtrine Hill is mostly a blocker, although he can be an option as a receiver. Ohio State's Maurice Clarett might have been the top back in the country when healthy - which he says he finally is. Averaged 6.0 ypc and scored 16 TDs in 10 games. Caused stir this week with accusations that school officials lied about the reasons he wasn't allowed to fly home to attend the funeral of a friend. That could be a distraction or a motivation. Backup Lydell Ross played well as Clarett's backup. FB Branden Joe is outstanding blocker. Edge: Ohio State.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Miami's Andre Johnson is one of the most dangerous receivers in the country, using his breakaway speed and 6-foot-3 size to outrun and outmuscle defensive backs. Had 48 catches and nine TDs in 11 games. Ethenic Sands and Roscoe Parrish are also threats. Ohio State's Michael Jenkins would get much more hype in a more wide-open offense, but he has made big plays for the Buckeyes with 1,031 yards receiving. Two-way player Chris Gamble will get some of his rest on offense so Chris Vance will have to step up. Edge: Miami.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Miami's revamped, undersized line is led by All-American C Brett Romberg. Gs Sherko Haji-Rasouli and Chris Myers are good run blockers. Ts Carlos Joseph and Vernon Casey are inconsistent. Ohio State has five 300-pounders across the line, led by RT Shane Olivea. Buckeyes like to run behind the right side of the line with Olivea, RG Bryce Bishop and C Alex Stepanovich. LT Ivan Douglas (6-8, 305) protects Krenzel on the blind side. Edge: Ohio State.

TIGHT END: Miami's Kellen Winslow Jr. is one of the best in the country with 46 catches and seven TDs this season. The son of the NFL Hall of Famer has the speed of a wide receiver to go with his 6-5, 233-pound frame. Ohio State's Ben Hartsock isn't much of a weapon, catching just 17 balls all year. Edge: Miami.

DEFENSIVE LINE: Miami has one of the country's deepest defensive line units, led by DTs Matt Walters, William Joseph and Vince Wilfork. DE Jamaal Green led the team with nine sacks, and DE Jerome McDougle added seven. Unit is undersized and could be overpowered by Ohio State's mammoth offensive line. DE Darion Scott led the Buckeyes with 81/2 sacks, and Will Smith provides pressure on the other end. DTs Tim Anderson and Kenny Peterson are good run stuffers. Edge: Ohio State.

LINEBACKERS: MLB Jonathan Vilma weighs only 220 pounds but makes up for it with his sideline-to-sideline coverage. He leads the speedy linebacking corps. D.J. Williams and freshman Roger McIntosh provide great support on the outside. All-American Matt Wilhelm leads Ohio State's linebackers and is the key to the run defense. Cie Grant and Robert Reynolds are solid on the outside. Edge: Miami.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Miami lost its entire defensive backfield to the NFL last season but found capable replacements. Hard-hitting FS Sean Taylor could be the next great Hurricanes DB. Kelly Jennings is the team's best cover corner. Antrel Rolle can be beat. The Buckeyes are led by All-American SS Michael Doss, who excels in run support and can also help in coverage. Gamble has been a big boost since coming over from receiver and will be counted on to shut down Johnson. CB Dustin Fox is the weak link and will need help in coverage from FS Donnie Nickey. Edge: Miami.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Miami's Freddie Capshaw had three punts blocked and averaged only 41.0 yards. Todd Sievers was 12-for-20 on field goals. Parrish and Jason Geathers are strong on returns. Ohio State might have the nation's best kicking duo in P Andy Groom (44.6 yard average) and K Mike Nugent (24-for-26 on field goals). Maurice Hall and Gamble are dangerous on returns. Edge: Ohio State.

COACHING: Larry Coker has never lost as a head coach, going 24-0 in two seasons at Miami. But Ohio State's Jim Tressel might be even better. He rebuilt the mess left by John Cooper and got the Buckeyes into the title game in two years. His steady personality has helped Ohio State excel in close games and could be the key if the Buckeyes can keep this game tight. Edge: Ohio State.

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