So this is it: the last game of a roller coaster season for the Buckeyes.
I have to admit that when the bowl match-ups were first announced, I wasn't thrilled with the idea of Ohio State playing Texas, a team that should be playing either Florida or Oklahoma in the BCS Championship.
However, after watching other teams in the Big XII struggle against their bowl opponents, I'm suddenly not as worried as I probably should be.
That's not to say the Longhorns won't be tough. Their only real blemish was a last-second loss to Texas Tech in Lubbock, Tex., back in November. Their passing game is practically unstoppable. The thought of Brian Okrapo going after Terrelle Pryor scares me. And as much as I hate to admit it, I like and respect Mack Brown.
Somewhat off-topic, but I'll never forget the Buckeyes rally held at Chase Field in Phoenix the day before the 2007 BCS Championship (aka the "Debacle in the Desert"). Jim Tressell, Troy Smith and the other players sounded unmotivated when they spoke to the crowd. After three previous bowl victories, playing in Phoenix had been taken for granted.
Little were any of us aware of the 2007 Gators' power and speed.
One of the reasons I held off on writing this preview was due to the fact that I wanted to see if history would repeat itself. Despite the un-Phoenix-like rainstorm we had earlier today, I waited along with thousands of other Ohio State fans to see what, and more importantly how, Tressel and his players would address the crowd at a rally held in Tempe.
Fortunately, Tressel, Brian Robiskie, and James Laurinaitis sounded a lot more focused and hungry than the 2006 team. Whether or not that will result in a victory tomorrow night remains to be seen, but this Buckeyes squad realizes the amount of disrespect they get from the national media and the rest of the country after three blowout losses on the national stage.
As almost every other media pundit has said, Ohio State needs to win this game. The Big Ten conference has had a dismal bowl season thus far, tarnishing the reputation of smashmouth-style northern football.
Before taking a look at positional matchups, here's some Buckeyes links:
Are Big XII Teams better known for strong offenses or weak defenses? Tim May and Ken Gordon of the Columbus Dispatch discuss the fact and fiction behind the perception.
Tressel's reputation will depend on the outcome of Monday night's Fiesta Bowl according to Bob Hunter of the Columbus Dispatch
Ohio State's offensive line will have their hands full with Longhorns defensive end Brian Orakpo says ESPN's Mark Schlabach
Pryor has a 62.5 percent passing average and has completed 95 passes for 1,245 yards, with 12 touchdown passes this season. On the ground, he has 124 carries for 553 yards.
Colt McCoy has a 77.6 percent passing average and has completed 291 passes for 3,445 yards with 32 touchdown passes. In 128 carries, he racked up 576 yards.
Beanie Wells averages 5.7 yards per run on 191 carries (1,091 yards) with eight touchdowns.
After McCoy (128 carries for 576 yards), Vondrell McGee is the Longhorns' next best runner, going 88-376 with four touchdowns.
Advantage: OHIO STATE
Brian Hartline is Ohio State's best wide receiver, but it is uncertain if he will be playing in the Fiesta Bowl because of an alleged curfew violation on New Year's Eve, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Regardless, Hartline averages 22.8 yards per reception and is 21-479 this season with four touchdowns. Robiskie is 37-419 with 8 touchdowns and averages 11.3 yards per reception.
The Longhorns' Jordan Shipley is 79-982 with 11 receiving touchdowns (leading the team in total touchdowns with 13 for the season) and averaging 12.4 yards per reception. Quan Cosby is 78-952 with eight touchdowns and averages 12.2 yards per reception.
Expect another strong outing from McCoy and his wide receivers, who have dominated almost every game they've played this season. Laurinaitis and the Buckeyes defense need to attack McCoy in order to stop Texas' passing game, and the offensive line must figure out how to keep Brian Orakpo away from Pryor and open up routes for Wells. As this Buckeyes squad is already aware, mistakes and penalties were a huge factor in their previous losses. There is no room for error against a loaded Texas offense, while Alex Boone and the rest of the offensive line will have their hands full with the No. 2 run defense in the country.
Unfortunately, considering the Longhorns' offensive weapons, this looks to be another BCS loss for the Buckeyes. Ohio State's defense is the best Texas has seen all year, and I wouldn't be surprised if the score is tied going into the half, but Texas will pound Ohio State late in the game.
Texas Longhorns 31, Ohio State 17
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