The last two years brought USC and all of the hype of playing Pete Carroll and the preeminent team of the last decade as the marquee out of conference foe on the Buckeyes' schedule. Tomorrow, the Miami Hurricanes step into that role and bring with them more storylines than perhaps any game in recent memory.
The teams have met a total of three times in the past, with Ohio State taking two. More significantly, the last two meetings have served as bellwethers for the direction of each program. Coming off an 11-1 season, John Cooper's Buckeyes were basically trucked by Miami in the 1999 Kickoff Classic at The Meadowlands. James Jackson ripped off a 45-yard touchdown on Miami's second play, emphatically declaring the Canes, under Butch Davis were back. Meanwhile, the Bucks would finish 6-6 that year and Cooper was out of a job the following season.
I don't have to rehash the events of January 3rd, 2003, but that game, too, seemed to signal turning points in both programs. After snapping Miami's 34-game winning streak, Ohio State would capture its first national championship in 34 seasons with the team taking up what seems to be permanent residency in a BCS bowl ever since. The Hurricanes, on the other hand, would sputter a bit in 2003, handing Larry Coker his first regular season loss by way of a 31-7 drubbing at the hands of Virginia Tech, only to follow it up with a 10-6 loss to Tennessee at home the following week, leading to the Little Soldier's tirade. They went on to suffer three defeats in both the 2004 and 2005 seasons, before the disastrous six-loss campaign of 2006, ultimately costing Coker his job.
The Canes and the Miami media have played up the revenge angle all week. Veterans have been imploring current players to remember the Fiestamo and exact some sort of revenge against the Buckeyes despite the fact that a) it was the correct call and b) most of the current starters were 12 at the time. They're also doing their best to belittle the Buckeyes and the people of Ohio, like skewing population figures, calling the Shoe quiet, talking up the Canes getting off the plane in Columbus wearing LeBron Heat jerseys, thinking of Columbus as a small college town while pointing out the competitive advantages of seeing a Wayan on South Beach, and lastly, just downright guaranteeing a victory.
If all of that isn't enough, consider the matchup of two of the nation's best recruiting classes from 2008 squaring off against each other in what should be the prime of their careers. Both depth charts are littered with key contributors from that class, and a few of them know each other from their days playing in the all-star circuit that season. It's almost a shame these two have to play so early in the season. When it's all said and done, they might be two of the better teams in the nation in 2010.