10 reasons Ohio State/LSU will win
NEW ORLEANS -- Which team is going to win the Allstate BCS National Championship Game? Pat Forde offers 10 reasons LSU will geaux all the way and earn the Tigers' second national championship in five years, while Ivan Maisel counters with 10 reasons Ohio State will earn its second title in six years.
|10 Reasons Ohio State/LSU will win|
Ivan -- Why Ohio State will win
10. Split Crowd -- Four years ago, LSU turned the Louisiana Superdome into Tiger Stadium East, overwhelming Oklahoma with a home crowd at what purported to be a neutral site. The assumption was that the same thing would happen this season. The assumption may be wrong. Ohio State fans are everywhere. The red T-shirts are outselling the purple at a Canal Street store, and the Superdome actually may be a 50-50 split. Even if it isn't, Ohio State won at Washington, at No. 20 Purdue, at No. 22 Penn State and at No. 23 Michigan.
9. Experience -- Yes, Ohio State laid a pterodactyl egg in Glendale, Ariz., last year, but Being There is more than a funny Peter Sellers movie. The Buckeyes brought back 38 lettermen from last year's team. LSU has one player, Kirston Pittman, who played in the 2004 BCS National Championship Game. Tressel is 5-3 in championship games: 4-2 in I-AA, 1-1 in the BCS. Miles hasn't been here before. Neither have his players.
8. Mascots -- Tigers may be carnivores but they also consume nuts. Ordinarily this wouldn't bode well for Buckeyes. But these Tigers choked on a Nutt on Thanksgiving Friday. Houston Nutt's Arkansas 50, LSU 48.
7. Laurinaitis -- Junior linebacker James Laurinaitis won the 2006 Nagurski Award as the nation's best defensive player and the 2007 Butkus Award as the best linebacker. In those two seasons, he has made 218 tackles, 17 behind the line, including nine sacks, and intercepted seven passes. He covers from sideline to sideline. His work ethic is a beacon on what has been the best defense in the nation.
6. Beanie -- Ohio State coaches are proud of the fact that sophomore Chris "Beanie" Wells hasn't had to carry what began the season as an inexperienced offense. But he could have, as he proved with his 39 carries for 222 yards and two touchdowns in the cold rain at Michigan. Wells averaged 122 rushing yards on only 21 carries. He forced safeties to creep toward the line, good news for quarterback Todd Boeckman.
5. The Offensive Line -- LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey won every trophy this year but the Sudler. He says he is healed but the fact remains he hasn't been the same player in the second half of the season that he was in the first. But Ohio State's offensive line, led by All-American tackle Kirk Barton, kept quarterback Todd Boeckman's jersey clean all season. The Buckeyes allowed only 14 sacks in 304 pass attempts.
4. Battle of the Bands -- The Golden Band from Tigerland is a snappy bunch. Its Web site proudly states it received the 2002 Sudler Trophy, awarded to an exemplary college band. No school may win it more than once. LSU received the 21st Sudler Trophy. Ohio State's TBDBITL -- The Best Damn Band In The Land -- received the third Sudler Trophy in 1982. Advantage, Script Ohio.
3. Defense -- Ohio State allowed 128 points, or 10.7 per game, but even that number is inflated. Opponents scored four touchdowns by returns (two kick, two defensive) and a safety, so the defense really allowed 98 points, or 8.3 points per game. Take out 14 points scored by opponents (Washington, Purdue) in the final minute of games that Ohio State led by at least 20 points, and you have only 78 points scored against presumably the starters. That's not seven points per game. To put it another way: Ohio State gave up two rushing touchdowns all season. Arkansas ran for five touchdowns versus LSU.
2. The DVD -- As Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said this week, "There's a natural instinct when someone tells you you're not really good to react to it." Not someone -- everyone in the media bad-mouthed the Buckeyes, not only for their loss to Florida a year ago, but for their weak schedule this season, for not belonging in New Orleans, for their choice of cologne, you name it. Jim Tressel had his video guys make a DVD for his players to watch. It's so comprehensive even Pat Forde and I are on it. Whatever we can do to help, guys.
1. The Sweater Vest -- Les Miles has done a great job of seat-of-the-pants coaching. He has won every nearly gamble, like the touchdown pass with :01 to play against Auburn. But no one wins every gamble. Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, that walking bastion of conservatism, that lover of field position, the guy whose teams pounce on opposing mistakes, is no gamble at all.
Pat -- Why LSU will win
10. Dome Cooking -- LSU brings a seven-game Superdome winning streak into this game against a team that didn't even hold a full-go practice in the Dome. Ohio State did only a walk-through in a dome that many players say is different from the average indoor place. Add a majority crowd of Tigers fans to the equation and you have a distinct home-field advantage for LSU.
9. Health -- When LSU had it early in the season, it was the best team in the country by a wide margin. Now it appears to have it back. Defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is the most disruptive force in college football -- when he's 100 percent. He says he is, after dragging a bad knee through the last half of the season following an infamous chop block from Auburn. Quarterback Matt Flynn should be good to go as well, after missing the SEC championship game with a bad shoulder, and receiver Early Doucet appears fully healed after a lingering groin injury.
8. Conference Affiliation -- If you don't think the SEC was much tougher than the Big Ten this season, you weren't paying attention. LSU ran a significantly more rigorous gauntlet to get here than Ohio State. The Tigers have seen teams at least comparable to the Buckeyes in terms of talent, but the same cannot be said in the other direction.
7. SEC Phobia -- The Buckeyes have lost their last eight games against SEC teams, most notably and unforgettably the 41-14 annihilation last year in this game against an underdog Florida team. Ohio State is tired of having that game thrown in its face -- so do something about it. I don't think the Buckeyes are capable of overcoming the vulnerabilities exposed by their speedy southern neighbors.
6. Because Les Miles Is Crazy -- And crazy has worked all season. Miles sometimes appear to come unhinged from reality during games, coming up with strange decisions and taking rash chances. But it's worked with this team, and his players seem convinced that Miles believes in them beyond a reasonable doubt. Figuring that Ohio State coach Jim Tressel is going to play things close to the trademark vest, The Hat might go to the opposite extreme. If his instincts prove as fortuitously solid as they have all fall, LSU wins.
5. French Quarter Psychic Says So -- That's "psychic," not "psycho," though there were plenty of the latter on the loose in the Quarter over the weekend. Anyway, at Bottom of the Cup Tearoom on Chartres Street, the tarot card readers say take the Tigers and give the points.
4. Quarterback Play -- Ohio State has scrupulously avoided putting too much burden on sophomore Todd Boeckman's shoulders. He's never thrown for more than 253 yards and never attempted 30 passes in a game. Meanwhile, Matt Flynn has shouldered a much larger portion of his team's offense. If/when LSU minimizes the running threat of Chris Wells, is Boeckman ready and/or capable of stepping up? He's thrown five interceptions since his last TD pass. Flynn is the more solid bet to play well -- and his backup, Ryan Perrilloux, adds another element for Ohio State to deal with.
3. Trindon Holliday -- The tiny LSU receiver/returner will be the fastest man on the field. If he gets a crease on a kick return or a reverse or a bubble screen, he could make the play that decides the game. Ohio State has some fast guys, but nobody who can blow by everyone like Holliday.
2. Because Jacob Hester Says So -- His dad named him after Big Jake, the John Wayne movie character. His parents brought him up as a huge Elvis Presley fan. He's married. He is very hard to tackle high, and perhaps harder to tackle low. As Ohio State defensive back Malcolm Jenkins put it, "I've seen guys on film try to take him low and get smashed. I don't think I've seen anybody take him down with a solo tackle." In other words, he's a bad dude who will have his hands on the football a lot. If it's fourth-and-one with everything on the line, the odds favor the team with Hester.
1. Turnover Margin -- It's the single most important stat in football, and it's strongly in the Tigers' favor in this game. LSU was a whopping plus-18 in turnovers this season, fifth-best in the country, forcing an SEC-high 12 fumbles and making an SEC-high 21 interceptions. Meanwhile Ohio State was a minus-1, failing to force many turnovers against a middling schedule. Score: LSU 24, Ohio State 13.