The defending national champion Miami Hurricanes have won 34 games in a row.

They've scored 67 offensive touchdowns this season and needed just 1 minute 58 seconds for each scoring drive.

Oddsmakers have proclaimed them 13-point favorites to defeat No. 2 Ohio State in Friday's Fiesta Bowl.

And all that explains why the question on the eve of college football's championship game isn't simply which team will win, but whether Miami's offense can be stopped.

With a savvy quarterback calling the shots, a resourceful tailback and a corps of towering, fleet receivers, the Hurricanes appear headed for their second consecutive national championship, most of the game's pundits believe.

The task for Ohio State's defense, in the face of the Hurricanes' offensive bluster, is crystal clear if not necessarily easy. As mapped out by Buckeyes defensive coordinator Mark Dantonio, it's threefold:

* Stop Miami's running game, which means stopping Heisman finalist Willis McGahee.

* Eliminate the big plays -- particularly from wide receiver Andre Johnson or tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. -- on which Miami has thrived all season.

* Rattle quarterback Ken Dorsey, an experienced senior with a seemingly unshakable demeanor.

Drawing up a defense is one task, Dantonio concedes. But to have a shot against top-ranked Miami, Ohio State's defense must bring Dantonio's game plan to life with relentless, unerring intensity.

"Ohio State has got to play a perfect game to have a chance," said ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who played for the Buckeyes. "Miami, I think, is not only the best team in the country. I think with what they've done in the last three years, I would put them up with some of the best teams as an era in the history of the sport. It will take an incredible effort for Ohio State to win."

The first quarter of the game will be critical for the Buckeyes. If they can keep Miami from scoring quickly, or hold the Hurricanes to field goals if they threaten in the red zone, Ohio State can stick with its game plan. If forced to play catch-up, taking risks on both offense and defense, the Buckeyes won't be playing to their strength, which has been a conservative, calibrated attack predicated on minimizing mistakes and forcing opponents to commit gaffes.

Herbstreit put it bluntly: "I think the only way Ohio State wins the game is if they hold an offense that averages about 43 points a game to about 17. If they can hold them to 17 or 20, they can win the game."

Still, Ohio State Coach Jim Tressel is confident his players won't get rattled, regardless of the score.

"Our guys are not guys that panic," Tressel said today. "They're not guys that fall apart."

The challenge of playing Miami starts with counteracting the Hurricanes' speed -- from Dorsey's quick release, to McGahee's lightning-fast cutbacks to Johnson's swift strides as he streaks downfield for the deep balls.

Dantonio is quick to admit he's not sure if the Buckeyes have faced anything like it this season.

"You can look on film and see [Miami's speed] relative to the people they're playing and gauge some things," Dantonio said. "But you never really know until you line up and begin to play, and feel each other out a little bit."

Said Ohio State safety Mike Doss: "As far as overall team speed, they definitely have something extra there. They've got guys that can really fly."

Chief among them is McGahee (6-1, 224), a versatile back who can run, catch and pass-block. The Buckeyes likely will bring an eighth man up to try to stop him -- if not tackling him flat out, then ideally forcing him to scamper side to side.

Stopping the run has been Ohio State's strength. The defense has allowed just 11 runs of more than 15 yards all season. But McGahee might be the best they've seen at breaking tackles, cutting back and eluding defenders.

Moreover, there's a risk in assigning too many people to McGahee.

"Defensively you have to take your chances," Herbstreit said. "If you think schematically that you can put seven people up near the box and keep four back to defend the pass, you're kidding yourself. They're too good. You have to walk an extra guy up. But now you're going to leave yourself vulnerable in the pass."

Even Miami's center, Brett Romberg, scoffs at notions that stopping McGahee is the key to stopping the Hurricanes.

"It's kind of a 'pick-your-poison' offense," Romberg said. "It would be a mistake to leave it up to Ken Dorsey and our receivers to win the game."

That's because Dorsey has so many options in the passing game, though his favorites are Johnson, who is averaging more than 20 yards per catch, and Winslow, who will draw coverage from Doss, as well as various Buckeye linebackers.

Then there is Dorsey himself: Hardly the prototypical quarterback, but a supremely effective one, surrounded by talented receivers and unburdened by the sort of ego that often clouds a signal-caller's decisions.

"If he's looking into the eye of the defense, and they're moving around, he gets his offense into the right play," Herbstreit said. "It's really intangibles and his cerebral approach that makes him so good."

Miami linebacker Jonathan Vilma just shook his head and sighed when asked how he would defend the Hurricanes' offense, as if empathetic toward anyone who tried.

"It would be tough just matching up," Vilma said. "You'd have to be able to blitz them. You'd have to be able to cover them. And you'd definitely have to be able to stop the run."

Ohio State's game plan consists of a conservative, calibrated attack, which is headed by running back Maurice Clarett. The Buckeyes must not be forced to play catch-up.Buckeyes safety Mike Doss has been given the go to stick close to Kellen Winslow Jr. "As far as overall team speed, they definitely have something extra there," said Doss.