Alright, so needless to say this year’s bowl game predictions have not exactly gone the way I thought. I swear I actually do know football despite the horrible record posted in recent days in our College Football Pick’em. Nonetheless, there are a couple bowl games left, and I am turning all my attention toward those two games and doing my best to get my predictions right. With that being said, let’s take a look at tonight’s Fiesta Bowl.
The 2009 Fiesta Bowl pits two familiar foes against one another. The Texas Longhorns and The Ohio State Buckeyes are heading west to meet up for the third time in four years. The two respected programs split their previous meetings, with each team winning on the road.
Ohio State seemingly finds their way to Arizona every January, Monday night’s game marks their fifth trip to the Fiesta Bowl in seven years. And fortunately for the Buckeyes, their first three trips to the desert were highly successful. Ohio State, beat an over matched Notre Dame team, and they became the darlings of college football, when they knocked off the heavily favored Miami Hurricanes in an overtime shocker. But history has not been kind to Ohio State, during their last trip to the Fiesta Bowl, Ohio State had the tables turned on them when they lost to a Chris Leak led Florida Gator team that dismantled the Buckeyes by 27 points. Since that time, Ohio State has become the poster child for big game chokes, and the futility of the Big 10 to perform in games against other BCS conferences. In Monday night’s game Ohio State will be playing for school and conference pride. It is painfully obvious that the Big 10 has been over matched in their bowl games thus far this season, with Iowa being the lone winner over a horrible South Carolina team. Now, Ohio State must find a way to put the pieces together against a very good Texas squad that has every right to argue a case that they should be eligible to play in for the BCS Championship game.
The Buckeyes once again have one of the best defenses in the country. That seems to be a given, however that defense is used to facing off against Big 10 grind’em style offenses. The Ohio State secondary struggled when facing Penn State’s version of the spread. Colt McCoy is one of the best quarterbacks in the country, and he can burn you with his legs and his arm. On offense, Ohio State runs a hybrid offense very similar to the one they used when Troy Smith was at the helm. Beanie Wells is one of the best backs in the country, but injuries slowed him for a majority of the season. However, he will be completely healthy entering the Fiesta Bowl, and there is no doubt that his presence will uplift the Ohio State attack. Perhaps the key to the entire Fiesta Bowl will come down to the performance of freshmen quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Pryor took over the play calling for the Buckeyes midway through the season and he has done a good job of heading up the OSU offense. Pryor is a great duel threat athlete however, he is a freshmen. The problem with that being, he can make mistakes in relying on his legs too much and trying to run his way out of situations instead of just getting rid of the ball. Against a defense that is as quick and as skilled as Texas this could spell trouble for the Buckeyes if Pryor becomes flustered b y the Longhorns blitz.
For the Ohio State Buckeyes, Monday’s game is all about pride. The current seniors on the Buckeye roster were freshmen when OSU went to the Fiesta Bowl and rolled over Notre Dame. In addition, James Laurinaitis was a sophomore and started the game against Florida. Many of the other Ohio State upperclassmen were around for the drubbing the Buckeyes suffered at the hands of LSU. If Ohio State wants to perform well in the Fiesta Bowl, those upperclassmen must come out of the tunnel with a sense of urgency. If Ohio State goes down yet again, in a nationally televised game to a non conference foe, one has to think it will all but kill their chances of squeaking their way into any BCS games in the near future.
The Texas Longhorns may have a bigger chip on their shoulder than any team in college football. They feel like they were snubbed out of playing for the Big 12 Championship and as a result, they were then snubbed from playing for a national title. To add insult to injury, Texas quarterback Colt McCoy was snubbed fur the Heisman when Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford took home the award. Now the Longhorns will look to exact their revenge on Ohio State.
The Texas Longhorns offense has been deadly all season. They have employed stable of running backs to keep their ground game going. In addition to that, Colt McCoy has emerged as an amazing threat using his legs to pick up needed yards on the ground. The Longhorns are a quick striking offense as well. McCoy and Jordan Shipley have developed an amazing receiver/quarterback relationship that has powered the Longhorns offense all season. On the defensive side of the ball, Texas is paced by the performance of their defensive line. The Longhorns are strong and quick up front. But in the Fiesta Bowl they will be tested in their ability to control the run. In Big 12 play the Texas DLine has been able to pin their ears back and rush the quarterback, but against Ohio State, they will need to play the run first and insure that Beanie Wells does not reach the second level. Once they stop Wells, then the Texas defense can use their speed to flush and chase Pryor and force him into making bad decisions.
The spread on this year Fiesta Bowl has the Texas Longhorns favored by nine points. Which, despite this being a big game, is not an extreme spread. Texas has been on a tear since losing a game to Texas Tech in late October. Their defense has been stout and the entire team has been playing with a sense of urgency. Both of these teams have not played in a very long time which means there could be some rust on both offenses. Now with that being said, I think Texas is just too powerful for and too quick on both sides of the ball. Ohio State will continue to come up short in major games and the integrity of the Big 10 will continue to suffer. The Texas Longhorns win the game and cover the spread.
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