Allstate BCS National Title Game Preview
One sentence recap of last night's game: Tulsa manhandled Bowling Green. Good thing I gave the Golden Hurricane 30 confidence points in our ESPN Bowl Mania group.
Now, on to tonight's BCS National Title Game between #2 LSU and #1 Ohio State. No off the field firewoks this week, something that's not unheard of when teams get together on Bourbon Street. No fighting, like the fisticuffs that took place between Miami and Florida back in 2001, or the verbal insult of one Rohan Marley towards an Alabama offensive lineman back in 1993 ("You fat, sloppy bastard"). But given the temperment of both head coaches, especially Ohio State's Jim Tressel, the good behavior was to be expected.
LSU has announced that they will use both Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux at quarterback tonight, and no one is surprised by that. Flynn has seen the majority of the snaps when healthy, but he did sit out the SEC Championship Game with a bruised throwing shoulder. In his stead, Perrilloux led the Tigers to the SEC title and claimed Most Outstanding Player honors for himself. Whoever is under center will have a good stable of running backs at their disposal, but if Les Miles decides to emphasize the run look for Jacob Hester to see the majority of the carries. Charles Scott and Keiland Williams have plenty of talent, and the diminutive Trindon Holliday is a gamebreaker thanks to his blazing speed. On the outside, a finally healthy Early Doucet leads a young yet talented corps of receivers. For all the talk about the LSU defense this year, this is an offense that is ranked 18th nationally and has scored 503 points.
Ohio State comes into this game with an offense somewhat similar to the one that won the national title back in 2002. Use the run to set up the pass, and don't make mistakes. Handling the rushing duties will be a pair of Wells, Chris (nickname: Beanie) and Maurice. Beanie will get the majority of the carries with Maurice offering a change of pace. In the game at Michigan to clinch the Big Ten, Beanie ran for 222 yards and two scores on 39 carries. Expect the same type of workload for the sophomore, but he's more than capable of handling it. QB Todd Boeckman didn't end the regular season the way either he or the Buckeyes would have liked (20-46, 0 TD 4 INT against Illinois and Michigan), but he has completed 64.5% of his passes for 23 touchdowns and thirteen picks. In the two Brians, Robiskie and Hartline, Boeckman has two receivers with sure hands. Robiskie is the guy Tressel may look to if he's in need of a big play down the field.
LSU's defense went from being considered one of the best to have ever played when the season began, only to be referred to as "overrated" by some towards the end of the season. Of course, you don't want to end the regular season by giving up fifty to Arkansas at home, but this is still a formidable unit anchored by DT Glenn Dorsey. Dorsey, who cleaned up on the awards circuit last month, should now be healthy after battling leg and back injuries for most of the season. DE Tyson Jackson is one that the Buckeyes will want to block as well, for he can wreak havoc on the edge. Darry Beckwith and Ali Highsmith lead a fast and talented linebacking corps, with S Craig Steltz looking to become the second member of his family to win a national title at LSU (brother Kevin was on the 2003 team). Corner Jonathan Zenon scored the gamewinning TD against Tennessee, taking an interception to the house in the fourth quarter. This is an excellent unit, and having the majority of the crowd behind them will help their cause.
Ohio State has the nation's top ranked defense, led by linebackers James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman. DE Vernon Gholston has been an absolute handful for foes all season. CB Malcolm Jenkins is one of the nation's best, and practically a surefire first round selection were he to go pro this year. The Bucks have allowed just two rushing touchdowns this season, and throwing the ball hasn't had much more success as they're also the best against the pass. However, Juice Williams did throw four touchdowns and no interceptions when the Illini won in Columbus. This unit will have to force some turnovers if Ohio State is to win, but OSU is only 64th nationally in turnover margin. LSU: 2nd.
For Ohio State, this game is about getting rid of the bad taste in their mouth that's been there for the past twelve months. After the blowout loss to Florida, all they heard was how overrated they were and how they couldn't deal with the "SEC speed" (bowl record against the SEC: 0-8). Motivation should help them out some, and while LSU does have the advantage in team speed, the gap isn't as large as it was in last year's game. LSU has lived on the edge for the majority of the season, with both of their losses coming in triple overtime. I think this game will be close, but the "home field advantage" combined with their ability to force turnovers will get Les Miles and his Tigers the win. After that, let the debating begin as USC and Georgia will also have a case for a share of the national title.