This game is - finally - for all the Tostitos
The long wait is over as Ohio State and Miami prepare for tonight's national championship game.
& lt;a href=mailto:email@example.com & gt;By ROB TODOR & lt;/a & gt;
VINDICATOR SPORTS EDITOR
PHOENIX -- All the talk is done. The questions have been asked -- over and over and over again -- and the answers have been given -- and given and given.
All that remains is the game. With nothing on the line, except the championship of college football.
Ohio State and Miami finished preparations for the 32nd Tostitos Fiesta Bowl Thursday with short walk-through practices at Sun Devil Stadium. It was the teams' first, and only, time on the neatly-groomed playing surface before tonight's (8:20 p.m.) contest.
The Buckeyes (13-0) remain underdogs, at least in the minds of the oddsmakers and national media.
That's OK with Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, although he said Thursday that any discussions about who's the favorite or the underdog haven't taken place at Ohio State's practice facility.
"We've never used the word 'underdog' unless we were talking about a blitz or something that we were getting ready for," he quipped.
Miami (12-0) enters with a 34-game winning streak and is the defending BCS champion. Last January, in the Rose Bowl, the Hurricanes defeated Nebraska 37-14.
"I don't know that we have a particular advantage [from last year's experience]," said Miami coach Larry Coker. "Our players are not overwhelmed by the magnitude of the game. They're not overwhelmed by playing for a national championship. Hopefully that's an advantage."
Miami won in a rout last January by scoring three touchdowns in a span of less than four minutes in the second quarter, extending a 7-0 lead to 28-0.
The Buckeyes must not allow a similar outburst.
"Every single matchup is important; there's not one thing that's not important," said Tressel. "Everyone has talked about the first 10 or 12 minutes being important, and that's true, but then the next 10 or 12 minutes are going to be just as important, and so on. All 60 minutes [tonight] are going to be important."
The Hurricanes have averaged 41 points per game over the course of their winning streak, which dates to Sept. 9, 2000, a 34-29 loss at Washington. Miami not only scores a lot of points, but does so in a quick-strike fashion.
The average drive of the Hurricanes' 67 offensive touchdowns this season lasts just 1 minute, 58 seconds. Overall, 37 of those touchdown drives took place in under two minutes and 18 came in less than a minute.
Also, of Miami's 810 plays from scrimmage this season, 201, or 24.8 percent, gained 10 or more yards.
"Miami has the greatest combination of explosiveness and balance of, really, any team we've seen," said Tressel. "Our guys know that every tackle is going to be important, every shed of every block. If you're covering a guy man [to man], you had better have him covered and then make a play if they throw it to him anyway. You have to play your best football to compete against the likes of Miami."
Ohio State ranked first in the Big Ten in total defense and scoring defense, and second in rushing defense and pass efficiency defense.
But the Buckeyes have not faced an offense with Miami's balance.
The Hurricanes, featuring Willis McGahee, averaged 192.8 yards per game rushing this season. And with quarterback Ken Dorsey at the controls, the Miami passing attack averaged 282.6 yards per contest.
"I think what he gives our offense, you just can't say enough what Ken Dorsey has done for our football team and our program," said Coker. "We know what our team is and is not with and without Ken Dorsey. You know his record as well as I do; he's only fallen short one time."
Dorsey is 38-1 as the starting quarterback.
Every starter on Ohio State's defensive line earned all-conference honors, first or second team, by the Big Ten coaches. That unit's play, against a somewhat undersized Miami offensive line, will play a key role tonight.
Tressel was asked if the atmosphere surrounding the game was overwhelming at times.
"As you watch Miami on film, that's overwhelming," he said.
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