Monday, January 7, 2008

BCS Title Game preview

By Rick Morris

EDITED TO ADD POST-GAME THOUGHT: Two years in a row, Ohio State has jumped out to an early lead in the National Title game only to end up getting smoked. If the Buckeyes make it to the championship game again next year, could we spot them another 14-21 points off the bat just to make it competitive?

The final game of college football's screwiest season ever matches two teams who arrived under fairly controversial circumstances. This has been the most difficult season ever to narrow a title game selection to two teams -- and when you look back over the last few decades, that's saying a mouthful.

Nevertheless, the BCS title will be decided tonight, and with Georgia and USC both rolling in their respective bowl games, LSU won't worry about having to share a disputed crown again as they did four years ago if they win tonight. Here are the major factors in the game:

^ Two quarterbacks who can make the plays they need to, but who are erratic -- and both could end up splitting time with backups tonight.

^ Like Florida a year ago, LSU does have superior speed, but injuries to some of their top players negate their advantage in athleticism to a certain extent.

^ Wanting to avoid the fate of Michigan, LSU will jam the box and try to take Beanie Wells out of the game. If Todd Boeckman can avoid mistakes (a big if!), the Two Brians could thrive in single coverage.

^ The wars in the trenches on both sides of the ball will be awesome, with the talent on both offensive and defensive lines.

^ Intangibles are fairly even: LSU has been getting rightfully disrespected for being underachievers this year and will have that motivation -- plus what remains of the Hurricane Katrina storyline -- at home no less. Ohio State came in doing the "Hollywood" routine a year ago and got humiliated in front of the world. Think they'll be amped up?

^ Ohio State has the edge in special teams, although a punt or kickoff return for a TD won't be followed by a group pile-on this year!

Ultimately, Ohio State has a ginormous edge in coaching. Les Miles has yet to prove that he is a big-game coach, and last year aside, Jim Tressel has a sizable resume in that regard. In the BCS era, a team with a significantly inferior coach has never won one of these games. Look for a game played mostly between the 20 yard lines, with a few intermittent big plays. Ohio State wins on a late field goal, 23-20.

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