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CFB – BCS National Championship – Ohio State vs. LSU (8:00 PM ET – FOX)
Jan. 7 — BCS National Championship at New Orleans, Ohio State (11-1) vs. LSU (11-2), 8 p.m. (FOX)
For the second year in a row, and the third time in six seasons, head coach Jim Tressel has his Ohio State team playing for the national championship. This year’s opponent is LSU, who leapfrogged a host of teams in the final BCS standings to earn a shot at the title. Monday night’s game is scheduled for an 8:00 PM ET kickoff, with LSU playing as a four-point favorite.
The Buckeyes were a quiet story for most of the year, playing in the shadows of preseason favorites Wisconsin and Michigan in the Big Ten. They won their first 10 games of the season before falling at home to Illinois. The season finale win over Michigan eventually gave them the Big Ten title.
In all, OSU was 7-4 ATS, while leading the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 10.7 PPG! That figure beat #2 Virginia Tech by 4.5 PPG. Tresell has turned around the bowl fortunes of the Buckeyes, winning four of the L5, both SU & ATS. Of course, the only loss in that span was a year ago in the BCS title game to Florida. However, in that game they were favored. In their L3 bowl games as underdogs, they have won outright.
LSU was a disappointing underachiever for most of the season, going just 4-7 ATS. In fact, the Tigers only covered the spread in one of their L10 games! They are trying to become the first team with two losses to ever win a BCS Championship.
HC Les Miles’ teams are 11-1 ATS in non-conference play, including 2-0 SU & ATS in bowl games. This is the second BCS Championship appearance for LSU, with the first resulting in a 21-14 win over Oklahoma in the 2004 Sugar Bowl. The Tigers’ best asset is balance, on both sides of the ball. They averaged 221 yards rushing per game and 229 through the air on offense, while yielding just 4.3 yards per play defensively.
Ohio State is just 3-9-1 all time vs. the SEC, while LSU boasts a 5-3-1 mark against the Big Ten.
While it is fair to expect specific game plans to be altered and schematic changes in formations aimed at providing surprise and fresh perspectives for the opposition to battle against, it is much more accurate to express the plain and simple truth: These teams know their strengths and weaknesses, and they know what got them to this point. Deviation from those principles now is not likely to unfold, and thus the analysis of those features should provide the best insight into what may lie ahead.
For Ohio State, the foundation of success has been built on what many now call “old school football.”
As the numbers indicate, it is the proven approach of rushing that has led the Buckeyes’ charge to success. The overall offensive effort is lacking, averaging just 405.4 total yards per game (61st among all FBS programs). The ability to pass, or lack thereof, has been the bane of that existence, averaging just 204.8 passing yards per game (95th in the nation).
Junior QB Todd Boeckman has been effective (23 TDs versus 12 interceptions) but rarely provides the punch needed to excel, recording just one game this season with 250 passing yards or more.
However, the work of the rushing corps has been nothing short of impressive. Sophomore Chris Wells has enjoyed a prodigious rise to fame, averaging an astounding 5.8 yards per carry on his way to a total of 1,463 rushing yards and 14 TDs. The entire unit has averaged 200.7 rushing yards per game, 22nd among all FBS programs. Those gains have given the Buckeyes the scoring and progression needed to win games.
Of course, the defense has done their part as well. In terms of total yards allowed, no team in the land has matched Ohio State’s effort, surrendering an average of just 225.25 total yards per game, giving up an average of 33 yards-per-game less than the second-ranked team in that category, first in passing defense (148.17 yards/game), third in rushing defense (77.1 yards/game), and most importantly, first in scoring defense (10.7 yards/game).
On the other side of the field will be the LSU Tigers, and as the numbers indicate, they are not be taken lightly as well.
The Tigers’ offensive rewards have been much more balanced. The team has gathered an average of 463.1 total yards per game, 18th in the nation. The passing efforts have not been among the collegiate elite by any means (244.2 yards per game), but their ranking of 53rd in the nation easily ranks ahead of Ohio State.
In terms of rushing, LSU has quietly enjoyed outstanding success. Senior Jacob Hester may not be well known, but his 5.0 yards per carry for 1,017 yards has helped the Tigers average 218.9 yards per game on the ground, 13th in the country (nine spots higher than the Buckeyes for that category).
The LSU defense happens to be one of the few in the nation capable of competing with the efforts put forth by OSU, surrendering an average of just 283.85 total yards per game (3rd among FBS programs).
Against the pass, the Tigers give up 180.77 yards per game (9th in the nation). Against the run, they surrender just 103.1 yards per game (14th in the nation). Last but not least, the Tigers have given up an average of just 19.6 points per game (21st in the nation).
However, as faithful fans of the football south will attest, those numbers posted by LSU, very similar to those put forth by the #1 Ohio State Buckeyes, carry much more weight, for the competition provided by the SEC is worthy of much more respect than that propositioned by the Big Ten.
Consider these facts.
1) The final BCS rankings include just two of OSU’s regular-season opponents: #13 Illinois and #18 Wisconsin. LSU faced the following teams, all included in the final BCS rankings of the season: #3 Virginia Tech, #12 Florida, #16 Tennessee, and #23 Auburn.
2) The best passer Ohio State faced this season: Brian Hoyer of Michigan State (28th in the country with a 138.9 Passing Efficiency rating). The best passers (plural) LSU faced this season: Tim Tebow of Florida (#2 on that list), Andre Woodson of Kentucky (#20 on that list), and Sean Glennon of Virginia Tech (#21).
3) Ohio State faced six of the nation’s rushers ranked among the nation’s top 50 for yardage this season, including Mike Hart of Michigan (#6), Rashard Mendenhall of Illinois (#8), Javon Ringer of Michigan State (#20), PJ Hill of Wisconsin (#23), Louis Rankin of Washington (#32), and Rodney Kinlaw of Penn State (#33). LSU faced six of their own, including Matt Forte of Tulane (#2), Darren McFadden of Arkansas (#4), Rafael Little of Kentucky (#37), BenJarvus Green-Ellis of Ole Miss (#38), Felix Jones of Arkansas (#40), and Arian Foster of Tennessee (#45).
4) The combined record of Ohio State’s opponents: 74-72, including the 7-4 Penguins of Youngstown State (of the FCS, or Division IAA, ranks). The combined record of LSU’s opponents: 88-70.
LSU has produced equal levels of success, including several statistical results that rank higher than those produced by Ohio State, against better players and better teams in a much better conference. They can run, they can pass, they can play defense, and they’ve done it all against superior competition with very few slips in production.
Of course, there is room for debate for the Buckeyes.
While LSU have faced one of the best schedules in the land, they have not faced a defense as strong as the Buckeyes. In a game in which the combatants have grown accustomed to scoring with regularity, it could prove difficult to adapt and find the few opportunities Ohio State may provide. LSU has the tools to take advantage of just about any situation, but identifying those opportunities could be the biggest challenge of them all.
Recent trends also suggest reason for concern in the bayou. In the final three games of the season, the LSU defense struggled to keep oncoming rushers from gathering yards. Ole Miss totaled 201 rushing yards in a 41-24 defeat, Arkansas totaled a whopping 385 rushing yards against LSU in a 50-48 triple OT upset victory over LSU (including 206 yards by Darren McFadden, a reasonable comparison to Ohio State’s Beanie Wells), and Tennessee posted 94 total rushing yards in the Tigers’ 21-14 regular-season finale.
TEAM AVERAGES & NATIONAL FCS RANKINGS
LSU: 463.1 (18th)
Ohio State: 405.4 (61st)
LSU: 244.2 (53rd)
Ohio State: 204.8 (95th)
LSU: 218.9 (13th)
Ohio State: 200.7 (22nd)
LSU: 38.7 (13th)
Ohio State: 32.0 (37th)
LSU: 283.85 (3rd)
Ohio State: 225.25 (1st)
LSU: 180.77 (9th)
Ohio State: 148.17 (1st)
LSU: 103.1 (14th)
Ohio State: 77.1 (3rd)
LSU: 19.6 (21st)
Ohio State: 10.7 (1st)
StatFox Power Rating says: LSU -1
StatFox Outplay Factor Rating says: LSU -3
BCS Championship Free Pick: StatFox Forecaster says: Ohio State 29, LSU 20
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