2009 Fiesta Bowl Preview - Ohio St vs. Texas
OSU's Malcolm Jenkins & UT's Colt McCoy
OSU's Malcolm Jenkins & UT's Colt McCoy
Posted Dec 20, 2008

There are statement bowl games, and then there's the Ohio State - Texas showdown. The two superpowers are each looking to show off to a national public looking to define them, with OSU trying for respect and UT hoping to show it should've been in the national title. Check out the 2009 CFN Fiesta Bowl Preview & Prediction

2009 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

Texas (11-1) vs. Ohio State (10-2)

Jan. 5, 12 p.m. ET, Fox

$17 million   Location: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale AZ

- 2009 Fiesta Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More         

National Rankings
Texas Ohio State
Total Offense
9th  476.42 ypg 79th  339.67 ypg
Total Defense
49th  339.92 ypg 7th  279.25 ypg
Scoring Offense
4th  43.92 ppg 42nd  28.17 ppg
Scoring Defense
18th  18.58 ppg 6th  13.08 ppg
Run Offense
35th  176.92 ypg 26th  191.58 ypg
Run Defense
2nd  73.58 ypg 19th  114.92 ypg
Pass Offense
10th  299.50 ypg 105th  148.08 ypg
Pass Defense
108th  266.33 ypg 7th  164.33 ypg
Turnover Margin
43rd  0.25 6th  1.25
Fla Atlantic W 52-10
at UTEP W 42-13
Rice W 52-10
Arkansas W 52-10
at Col W 38-14
Oklahoma W 45-35
Missouri W 56-31
Okla St W 28-24
at Tex Tech L 39-33
Baylor W 45-21
at Kansas W 35-7
Texas A&M W 49-9
Ohio State
Young St W 43-0
Ohio W 26-14
at USC L 35-3
Troy W 28-10
Minnesota W 34-21
at Wisc. W 20-17
Purdue W 16-3
at Mich St W 45-7
Penn St L 13-6
at NW W 45-10
at Illinois W 30-20
Michigan W 42-7
Position Ratings
relative to each other
T 5 highest
1 lowest
5 Quarterbacks 4
3 RBs 5
3.5 Receivers 4
4 O Line 3
5 D Line 3
4.5 Linebackers 5
3 Secondary 4
4.5 Spec Teams 5
4.5 Coaching 4.5

There are a handful of games that define a college football season and this bowl, when the snapshot of the 2008 campaign is taken, will be one of them thanks to what happened in the Rose and Sugar Bowls. 

With USC dominating Penn State in the Rose, all of a sudden the Trojans became the ones who should’ve been playing in the national title game. And then came Utah’s stunning win over Alabama to finish unbeaten, and now there’s talk about the Utes deserving to finish close to the top spot. Little of the focus is around Texas anymore, even though the Longhorns have as much right as anyone to be in Miami on January 8th

While Texas is playing at one level, and it has to hold up the pride of a Big 12 South that’s had problems so far this post-season, the Big Ten has had an abysmal 1-5 bowl season. Now the league has one final shot to salvage some semblance of pride after the Nittany Lions got ripped up in Pasadena, Wisconsin failed to show up against Florida State, Michigan State got stopped by Georgia, Northwestern failed to take advantage of a sluggish Missouri, and Minnesota wasn’t up to snuff against Kansas.

For Ohio State, all the goodwill built up from beating Miami in the 2002 national title in what seems like 25 years ago is gone after losing the last two national titles and after getting thumped by USC early this season. This really is an elite team with speed, athleticism, pro talent and lots and lots of great players and an overall record over the last ten years that roughly 110 other programs would kill for. But the Buckeyes need to show up against the Longhorns. They can afford a loss, but they have to play really well and they have to prove to the world they can hang with an elite of an elite team on the big stage. Yet another ugly performance and a blowout loss would only further deepen the current anti-Big Ten sentiment, and rightly so.

Texas has a different issue. There but for the grace of a few more votes and a little more love form the computers and it would’ve been a Longhorn-Gator national championship and Oklahoma would be in its third straight Fiesta Bowl.
 While there might be some moaning from the USC faithful about the one loss coming to a decent Oregon State, and Utah fans arguing that going unbeaten with wins over Oregon State, TCU, BYU, Michigan (in the season opener before the Wolverines were supposed to stink), and Alabama should bring the eventual No. 2 spot in the final rankings home. Texas can change all of that in a real hurry.

All the attention and all the focus can be on the Longhorns with a dominant win over Ohio State. Yes, the Buckeyes are having a hard time getting much in the way of credibility its way, but this really is a good team with plenty of big-time athletes, NFL starters, and veterans. A win over Ohio State really would be impressive, and a blowout would mean the Longhorns would be assured of the No. 2 spot behind Florida if the Gators win the BCS Championship Game, and it would get a few votes for the top spot.

Almost no one saw this coming. Texas was supposed to be good, but the preseason buzz was all about Missouri, a rising Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Kansas, but Texas turned into one of the nation’s most complete teams with a dominant run defense, an efficient offense, thanks to an all-timer of a year from Colt McCoy, and the best special teams in the Big 12. The Longhorns made their big statement with a 45-35 win over Oklahoma, with a final score that will forever be etched into the heads of angry UT fans, and there were nice wins over Missouri, Oklahoma State and Kansas. But there was one big pass from Graham Harrell to Michael Crabtree with just a few ticks left on the clock, and Texas Tech ended up ruining the dream season.
While Oklahoma put on an offensive show over the second half of the season, impressing the BCS voters and computers enough to take the spot in the Big 12 title game over UT and Texas Tech, but Texas was every bit as dominant outside of the battle with Oklahoma State and the loss to Texas Tech. However, because UT wasn’t as flashy, and because OU blew away Texas Tech, Mack Brown’s club was left out in the cold.
Ohio State had high expectations coming into the year, even if the public didn’t. When LB James Laurinaitis and CB Malcolm Jenkins shockingly chose to come back for their senior seasons, all of a sudden the team that played in two straight national title games became loaded. However, the team wasn’t sharp to start out the year, superstar RB Beanie Wells hurt his toe, and the team that was supposed to be so complete and so good all of a sudden was in disarray, as evidenced by a 35-3 embarrassment at USC.

Wells got healthier, star recruit Terrelle Pryor took over the quarterbacking reins, and the team settled down and got better and better as the year went on. There was the 13-6 home loss to Penn State in a war, but there weren’t any problems with anyone else over the second half of the season, even if the only wins of note came in blowouts of Michigan State and Northwestern.

With Boise State losing to TCU, the debate, at least before the Fiesta Bowl, about who deserved the 10th spot is over. Ohio State now has to play loose and up to its talent level in one last hurrah for a great team that’ll be remembered more for the failures than for all the wins. Texas has to show why it was totally and completely screwed by the system, while casting a pall over a BCS Championship Game that will seem a bit off if the Fiesta Bowl turns ugly. There will be storylines a plenty in what was a good matchup before the bowl season, and is an even more fascinating one now.
Players to watch: Ricky Williams, Cedric Benson, Roy Williams, Quentin Jammer; for the most part, Texas superstars tend to stay for their senior seasons when they could easily be off to the pros and be first round picks as juniors. Vince Young was one of the notable exceptions, and Colt McCoy could have a tough choice to make in a few weeks. He has said he’s coming back for his senior season, but big bowl performances tend to change perceptions. Remember, Young wasn’t really considered a true top five caliber draft pick before his magnum opus against USC, and LSU’s JaMarcus Russell went from being on the fence to the No. 1 overall pick after lighting up Notre Dame.

McCoy finished second in the Heisman voting behind Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, but if there was an MVP award, it would be next to impossible to not give it to him. He led the team in rushing with 576 yards and 10 touchdowns, completed 78% of his throws for 3,445 yards and 32 touchdowns with seven interceptions, and was nearly flawless from pillar to post. Even in the lone loss, he had a Heisman-type drive that seemed like it was going to cement a win over Texas Tech.
Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor is hoping to become the complete player that McCoy is, and he’s well on his way. A part-time performances over the first few games, he was handed the keys to the offense after the loss to USC and he has shown flashes of greatness. While the coaching staff hasn’t let Pryor turn it loose and take many chances, the results have been solid, highlighted by a 13-of-19, 144-yard, one touchdown, one rushing touchdown, one game-winning drive performance against Wisconsin. He’s considered an even bigger, stronger, faster, more polished Vince Young, but he has to prove he can pull off a huge game like this before he starts to become the special player he’s expected to be.
At the beginning of the year, Ohio State had a balanced offense that liked to get the ball deep to Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie. That dried up once Pryor took over, and it put even more pressure on RB Beanie Wells to produce. Wells came back from his toe problem to finish with 100-yard or more in six of the final eight games, with 94 yards against Purdue and 55 against Penn State. Almost certain to turn pro after this game, he’s expected to be a top 15 pick, and possible a top five selection overall, and he could use one final big push to make a statement. He was one of the few bright spots in last year’s national title loss to LSU, running for 146 yards on 20 carries.
The star of stars on the great Texas defense is end Brian Orakpo, a freak of nature with superior strength and too much athleticism for most college tackles. Forgotten about in the Texas Tech loss is how the eventual Lombardi and Hendricks Award winner got hurt. He managed to come back two games later after missing the date with Baylor, and even with the time off he came up with 10.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss, and 38 stops. Considering the Ohio State pass protection is iffy at best, job one for Pryor will be to know where Orakpo is at all times.  

Texas will win if... the pass rush is working. Forget about all the talk surrounding OSU’s idea of playing Todd Boeckman and Pryor at the same time. Watch Texas drool if Boeckman, who was a sitting duck in the loss to USC, is under center. The key will be to make Pryor try to make plays on the move with his arm and not his legs. When Pryor has time, he’ll look deep against a mediocre UT secondary, but on the move, he goes big-time conservative and takes the short to midrange throws. This is a two-man OSU offense, and if Orakpo and the pass rush can force Pryor to make the big decisions to win the game, the Longhorns will be in great shape.
Ohio State will win if
... the offensive line pounds away on the Texas defensive front. For all the great things the Big 12 offenses did this year, there were only a handful of teams that had an offensive line that could step up and slug a good defensive line in the mouth. Oklahoma was one team with such a front five, and its running game was shut down by the nation’s No. 2 run defense. Oklahoma State was the other team that could power it up front and open holes for its speed backs, and it had some success with 217 yards on the ground including a big day from Kendall Hunter. After the way the last few spotlight games have gone for the Buckeyes, confidence will be everything. If OSU gets down 14-0, forget about it. “Here we go again” will quickly creep in. But if the line can come up with a big first drive, and if Wells and Pryor are able to get on the move, Ohio State might realize just how much talent it really has and it could take on an attitude it hasn’t had in a few years. Don’t discount just how big a positive mindset will mean for this team.

What will happen: Ohio State will represent itself well. Texas will come out and score early, but the Buckeye defense will settle down and should keep the game from being a blowout. The problem for the Buckeyes will be a lack of diversity. Boeckman, if he really does play, won’t do much of anything, and Pryor just doesn’t have the passing game yet to make the Texas corners quake. It’ll be a good game, but no big statements will be made. Texas will simply come out and win with a good all-around effort.

CFN Prediction: Texas 26 … Ohio State 17 … Line: Texas -9.5