Dr. Saturday - NCAAF

Breaking down the second Saturday's big intersectional tilts: Miami at Ohio State.

Miles traveled. 1,026, from Coral Gables to Columbus, roughly a 19-hour drive. I'm sure that's not too far for this 'U' alum:

So really all you other gibroni 'Cane fans have no excuse.

Respect the decibels. A trolling blogger for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel puckishly mocked Ohio Stadium as "hardly hostile" Wednesday, thereby guaranteeing 102,000 belligerent Buckeye fans spitting amplified fire under a sulfuric sky when Miami's offense takes the field. OSU quarterback Terrelle "LeBron in Cleats" Pryor just hopes the lion's share of Ohioan bile isn't spent on Miami's new favorite son:

"If LeBron does come just treat him with respect, and respect his decision," Pryor said. "Please, no name calling, or booing, or anything like that. Because that's my mentor, and I’ve got a lot of respect for him, a lot of love for him."

Booing, name-calling: That much they can do, out of respect for Terrelle. But notice he didn't say anything about urine balloons.

Of course you know, this means war. Even legions of notoriously fair-weather Miami fans can be brought to a boil over the flimsy fourth-down pass interference call that effectively bought Ohio State a second overtime in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, eventually costing the 'Canes their 35th straight win and second straight BCS championship. Larry Coker is gone, Ken Dorsey is all but forgotten and the gloriously decrepit Orange Bowl no longer exists, but the perceived snub that robbed one of the most monolithically talented outfits of the last decade of its final, crowning moment still rings out.

The line. Ohio State by 8 to 8½. If you can't bet on the No. 2 team in both major polls taking care of business at home in its only major non-conference test, really, what can you count on? /nervous chuckling

Advantage, underdog: Actually, the Horseshoe hasn't been all that hostile lately in big games: In the last five years, the Buckeyes have dropped hard-fought, high-profile showdowns in Columbus to then-No. 2 Texas (2005), Rose Bowl-bound Illinois (2007), No. 3 Penn State (2008) and No. 3 USC (2009), all of them effectively knocking Ohio State out of the national championship picture at the time. (The '07 team returned to No. 1 at the end of the regular season by virtue of some truly miraculous chaos in front of it; going into the finale against Michigan, the Buckeyes were ranked seventh in the BCS standings.)

In three of those four games, OSU blew a fourth-quarter lead, yielding to late, game-winning touchdown drives orchestrated by Vince Young, Pat Devlin and Matt Barkley; in '07, the defense succumbed to an epic, clock-killing march engineered by Juice Williams that ran off the final nine minutes of the 28-21 upset. Backup quarterback James Vandenberg also brought Iowa back in his first career start last November, driving the Hawkeyes 70 yards for a tying touchdown in the closing minutes before eventually falling in overtime in the de facto Big Ten Championship Game.

Meanwhile, back in reality. Miami's two encounters with top-10 defenses on the road last year ended in a 31-7, 209-yard shellacking at Virginia Tech in the rain and a 33-24, four-interception flop at North Carolina – with the 'Canes entering as slight favorites in both games. If Miami's young roster is still in the coming-of-age phase in the long arc of the U's return to the top, for Ohio State, the time is now.

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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.

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