January 05, 2009

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl -- Texas (11-1) vs. Ohio State (10-2) (University of Phoenix Stadium Glendale, Arizona January 5, 2009 8pm FOX)

Dan: Texas -9.5

Ohio State has not fared well in bowl games lately. Texas, however, has. Throw in a weak Big 10 and Ohio State’s only performance against a marquee out of conference opponent, and I would not be very hopeful if I were a Buckeye fan. Nine and a half is still a huge spread for a game involving Tressel Ball. Nevertheless, I just don’t have the confidence in the tOSU defense to slow down Colt McCoy.

Texas 38 Ohio State 20

Matt: Texas +9.5

Ohio State is a very one dimensional team. You know that Texas is going to stack the line of scrimmage to slow down Beanie Wells and Pryor’s scrambling. I just don’t think at this stage in his career Pryor is capable of winning against a team like Texas with his arm. And the news that scrolled across ESPN the other day that Tressel is planning on using Todd Boeckman is worrisome…for Buckeye fans. Mack Brown probably did cartwheels around his living room when he saw that news. Let’s just say I don’t think Todd Boeckman is the secret weapon.

The one thing that gives me pause about that huge point spread is that Texas is SO reliable on Colt McCoy. He’s their leading rusher and seems to take a ton of hits. You know that Ohio State is going to be drilling him every chance. Nevertheless, I think that Texas wins this one fairly easily.

The interesting thing if this game is another blowout is how the perception of Ohio State and also Jim Tressel further deteriorates. I’m sure Doug can attest to this living in Columbus, but it’s gotta be mental now with the fans and players when they play a big game out of conference. There is zero chance that Ohio State is winning that game against USC next year, and every player, fan and coach knows it. I really don’t know what the solution is, but it is pretty clear that there is a growing divide between Northern and Southern football. When a mediocre Florida State team is literally running circles around Wisconsin, you know something’s up. Seriously, would Florida State have won the Big 10 this year? I think that is a fair question – the talent difference is that big.

Texas 38 Ohio State 21

Mike: Texas –9.5

Although Terrelle Pryor has done a nice job in his freshman campaign, there is no way that the Buckeyes can match Colt McCoy and the Texas offense in this game. Mack Brown has changed the culture in Austin, which was previously viewed as being overly relaxed, and he will use the Longhorns’ BCS snub as a motivational tool.

Texas 30 Ohio State 17

Doug: Ohio State +9.5

I almost get the impression from the people around Columbus that everyone is dreading this game. After the back to back blowout losses in the national championship games and the blowout loss to USC, people are starting to fear more of the same. It's another nationally televised game against a highly ranked opponent from the south on national tv. People are fearing the worst.

Here's the thing though. Are we sure Texas is in that same class as those other teams that have pounded the Buckeyes?? Are we even sure that the Big 12 is any good this year?? The vaunted Texas Tech got plowed by Ole Miss, and Oklahoma State got run over by Oregon. Those two teams were propping up the strength of the Big 12 all year, but now I'm not even sure how good they were. Heck, Ohio State beat Texas on their field in 2006, and they were a dropped touchdown pass away from beating the Vince Young national title team in 2005.

I think Texas is a very good team, but I'm not sure if I'd put them in that USC class. I think USC would beat Oklahoma or Texas by 3 touchdowns. The Big 10 has a major image problem, but part of that stems from the fact that the Big 10 always has to go out to Pasadena to play USC. No one would be doing well under that scenario. If the ACC had been sending their champion out to the Rose Bowl, they would have been plowed. Same goes for the Big 12 in most years if you ask me. USC beat a supposedly unbeatable Oklahoma team 55-19 in the title game a few years ago. USC is playing a different sport than everyone else, especially in bowl games.

So that brings me back to the game. The key for Ohio State in this game is going to be their defense. I am admittedly taking a leap of faith since these Lauranaitis defenses have really not performed well in big games at any point in their four years, but I feel like the Buckeyes can hang around on Monday. Texas has a great quarterback and good wide receivers, but they aren't a dominant unit up front. Colt McCoy is their main runner. This isn't like USC where they can run all over you or pass all over you or like the LSU team from last year that had a dominant o-line to go with their passing game. Texas is a good offensive team that has benefited from the miserable defenses of the Big 12. If Ohio State can get physical with Texas and try to make them one-dimensional, they can slow down Texas. If they get shoved around and let Texas pound the ball and open up a play acton game, they are going to get rolled. The coaches for the Buckeyes need to have an aggressive game plan in place for this game.

Everyone is focusing on "southern speed" and how the Buckeyes can't hang around with these faster teams from the south, but I think the bigger issue has been that teams like Florida and USC and LSU have been MUCH more physical than Ohio State. The Buckeyes got pushed around on the lines in all three of those games. They were at a speed disadvantage to some degree, but the bigger issue was the battle up front. If Texas dominates this game physically, it's over. I certainly think that is possible based on the talent level of Texas, but for some reason I don't feel like Texas is quite in the class of a USC or last year's LSU team in terms of being dominant up front.

On the other side of the ball, the key for the Buckeyes is going to be whether or not Jim Tressel can abandon his conservative tendencies and play for touchdowns instead of field goals. If Tressel plays for field goals, they'll be down 21-3 before halftime. Tressel Ball does not work in big games against good offenses. You need to be prepared to match a team score for score in case your defense isn't up to the task that night. Tressel has somehow deluded himself into thinking that everyone around the country tries to play Big 10 football in the big games. That's not the case as we have seen. Ohio State needs to have an aggressive game plan that puts Pryor in a position to make big plays. They need to let Pryor do his thing to loosen up the Texas defense, which would create running lanes for Beanie Wells.

I know everyone is expecting a huge blowout, but I am not sure if I buy into this Texas team as much as I did the other teams that OSU has lost to in the past. Texas has beaten NO ONE outside of the Big 12. They are trumpeting themselves based on beating teams like Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. Those are good wins, but it's not the juggernaut schedule that it has been made out to be. Mack Brown has apparently become a different football coach in the last year, and it seems like his players have been inspired all year. I just am not sure that they are a dominant team like USC.

As for this current Ohio State team, I know the standard response about them has been that they are overrated, but the reality is that these guys have overachieved in the last few years. Tressel took a step back in recruiting a few years ago, and a lot of the seniors that have been the key figures on this team the last couple years were only 3 star type recruits. At the end of the day, talent wins out in the big games, and Ohio State has not had the talent along the lines in the last couple years to win these types of games. Tressel has stepped it up big time in the last two years to get more national recruits, so I do think Ohio State will be in good shape going forward in the future. As for this game, they will be at a talent disadvantage.

One other big factor here is motivation. Ohio State has been hearing for the last three years about how their program is a dinosaur and how they are overrated and how they choke in the big games, etc. I do expect to see Ohio State come out with something to prove in this game. They want to get some respect back. Meanwhile, Texas was passed over for the national title game, and I'm curious to know how fired up they are for this game. They are talking the talk, but are they really excited about playing an Ohio State team that everyone thinks is a joke?

Should be an interesting game. I know the consensus will be that Texas wins this game big, but I'll go in the opposite direction and say that the Buckeyes straight up win.

Ohio State 23 Texas 21

1 comment:

ecrunner said...

this is like the "loves me loves me not..." you are all pretty evenly matched, except in your explanations of why you voted one way or another. I was almost going to go to the game to see how it went (cousin goes to Texas) but at least I will get pictures of the game that I can be jealous of.