Ohio State vs.
LSU, Jan. 7, 2008
Ohio State - Todd Boeckman had a solid
season taking over for Troy Smith with 23 touchdown passes and 12
interceptions, but he threw four interceptions in the last two games
including a three-pick effort in the loss to Illinois. He's not a
runner, but he's not immobile and should be able to move around a little
bit against the LSU pass rush.
LSU - Matt Flynn gutted it out late
in the year despite being hurt. While not flashy, he's rock-solid in the
clutch (the two losses were hardly his fault) and it a rushing option
the Buckeyes will have to pay attention to. Interceptions are an issue
throwing at least one in seven straight games before tightening up late.
No. 2 man Ryan Perriloux is hardly a backup having gone 20 of 30 for 243
yards and a touchdown with an interception in the SEC Championship win
ADVANTAGE: LSU, by a little. The two options give the Buckeyes
more to worry about while Boeckman has to prove he can handle himself in
the face of a steady pass rush. Boeckman will have to do more than the
LSU quarterbacks to win.
Ohio State - Chris "Beanie" Wells was
one of the nation's steadiest, most productive backs throughout the
year, even if he somehow flew under the radar. With an NFL-perfect blend of speed and power, the 6-1, 235-pound
sophomore a do-it-all back who can hit the home run and pound away as a
workhorse. Maurice Wells is a veteran reserve who can catch, but he
likely won't be used unless disaster strikes.
LSU - The star of a crowded
backfield is bruising fullback Jacob Hester, who can kill a defense by
pounding away for yards in chunks. Keiland Williams is a speed back with
226-pound size. Charles Scott was little used, but has the ability to
breakout with a few carries. 5-5 Trindon Holliday might be the fastest
player in college football. He'll get the ball in a variety of ways to
get him into space.
ADVANTAGE: LSU, by a little. It's all about options. Beanie is
the most talented back in the game by far, but LSU has a slew of runners
who can be effective in a rotation. If Wells isn't on, Ohio State
doesn't have any other viable options.
Ohio State - While they might not be
Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez, Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie are
solid and steady. They were able to come up with big plays against
average teams, but they need to prove they can light up a secondary as
good as LSU's. Rory Nichol is a good blocker and a decent receiver, but
the junior tight end wasn't used in the passing game late in the year.
LSU - Long on talent and short on
big-time production, the receiving corps didn't take off until Early
Doucet got over a groin injury late in the year. He's the gamebreaker
who could change the game all by himself. Leading receiver Brandon
LaFell is fine, but nothing special, while junior Demetrius Byrd, who
led the team with seven touchdown catches, could be the unsung weapon if
the Buckeyes worry about Doucet. Tight end Richard Dickson was a nice,
unheralded target who caught 28 passes for 331 yards and three scores.
ADVANTAGE: Ohio State, by a little. If Doucet is on, LSU could
have the advantage. Hartline and Robiskie will be great if things are
going well and Todd Boeckman has time, but they'll disappear for
Ohio State - Tremendous all season
long, this is easily one of the five best lines in the country. Tackles
Kirk Barton and Alex Boone are special, with the 6-6, 300-pound Barton
the better of the two, while the interior grew better and better as the
year went on. Few lines were better in pass protection.
LSU - It wasn't as good as it
should've been. Massive 6-7, 356-pound junior Herman Johnson is a killer
at left guard, and Ciron Black will grow into an NFL caliber tackle, but
the line, overall, should have problems with Ohio State's speed up
front. If this group isn't pounding away for the running game, it could
potentially be the weak link. If the line dominates, LSU will win in a
ADVANTAGE: Ohio State. The Buckeyes have to at least hold even
with the terrific LSU defensive front, while LSU's front five has to
figure out how to keep Vernon Gholston out of the backfield and has to
control the running game from the start.
Ohio State - Vernon Gholston
single-handedly destroyed the Michigan offense and cranked out four
sacks against Wisconsin, but consistency was a problem. The young front
four got into the backfield, and held firm throughout the year against
the run, but it got pushed around late by Illinois and has to prove it
can old up against LSU's massive O line.
LSU - Glenn Dorsey and USC's Sedrick
Ellis were the two best tackles in the country, and Dorsey was doing it
with a bad knee and back. Now that he's healthy, this could be the
jaw-dropping, Miami-must-take-him performance everyone's been waiting
for since the cheap shot on his knee against Auburn. Tyson Jackson has
all the NFL tools, but had a disappointing junior year. DT Marlon
Favorite and DE Kirston Pittman should shine with all the attention paid
to a healthy Dorsey.
ADVANTAGE: LSU. If Gholston is neutralized, Ohio State's defense
could have problems. A healthy Dorsey makes the already tremendous LSU
line truly scary.
Ohio State - James Laurinaitis has been
saying he's coming back for his senior year, but that could quickly
change. Likely a top ten pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, if he comes out,
he'll have to clean up several messes if the LSU running game is
rolling. Don't blame him for the loss to Florida; he cranked out 15
tackles and was one of the few playmakers. Marcus Freeman and Larry
Grant don't get their due publicity with all the attention paid to
Laurinaitis, but they're disruptive forces.
LSU - Ali Highsmith is a slightly
undersized terror in the backfield. With all the attention paid to the
LSU defensive line, Highsmith has to be accounted for on every play.
Darry Beckwith is finally healthy after being banged up over the second
half of the year, and he should have double-digit tackles in the middle.
The combination of players on the strongside are average.
ADVANTAGE: Ohio State. Highsmith and a healthy Beckwith will be
fantastic, but the Buckeye linebacking corps is special.
Ohio State - Malcolm Jenkins is the
star of the nation's best pass defense with size, fantastic closing
speed, and first round talent. Donald Washington, back in the mix after
his suspension, isn't too far behind. The safeties, Kurt Coleman and
Anderson Russell don't get much press, but they're strong hitters.
LSU - Craig Steltz might have been
the nation's best defensive back this year. With a nose for the ball
both in the air and on the ground, he's always making big plays and is
always around the ball. The corners are great, but they're not as good
as they get credit for. Senior Chevis Jackson will be an NFL starter,
but he can be beaten.
ADVANTAGE: Ohio State, by a little. Was the secondary so good
because of the pass rush or was the pass rush effective because the
secondary was closing everyone down? A little of both. This will be one
of the key areas for OSU; can the safeties handle the LSU deep speed?
Ohio State - PK Ryan Pretorius is among
the best in the country. Three of his four misses were blocks. Punter
A.J. Trapasso is a weapon who can bail the offense out of any bad
situation. Brian Hartline is an effective, but not sensational punt
returner, while kickoff returns have been a disaster.
LSU - The kicking game is one of the
few in America good enough to match up with Ohio State's, but as good as
PK Colt David was, will the coaching staff trust him to hit a 40-yarder
in crunch time? The return game was miserable, but Trindon Holliday and
Early Doucet have the speed to break open any game with a little bit of
room to move.
ADVANTAGE: Ohio State. The kicking game is a little bit better
and the punt return game is a wee bit more effective.
Ohio State - Jim Tressel remains one of
the elite of the elite big-game coaches. The Florida loss was a major
blemish on an otherwise spotless record, and he and his staff aren't
going to let that happen again.
LSU - Les Miles might be the best
coach-from-the-gut game managers around. Not given much credit as an X
and O guy, almost all his big gambles paid off this year. Now that the
Michigan soap opera is in the past, he's been able to focus on the task
ADVANTAGE: Ohio State. Miles has been terrific since showing up
in Baton Rouge taking what Nick Saban started and making the program
even better, but Tressel has grown into an all-time great.