The 2010 edition of the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi, between the Oregon Ducks and The Ohio State Buckeyes, is the most anticipated match up of the grandest bowl game since the no. 2 Texas Longhorns spoiled the national championship dreams of the USC Trojans, in 2005.
In fact, this battle between Oregon and Ohio State is arguably the most anticipated match up of this year’s bowl season, including the BCS national title game between the Texas Longhorns and Alabama Crimson Tide.
A novice might listen to the general perceptions espoused by ESPN’s so-called “experts” who will say that the decidedly slower Buckeyes just can’t keep up with the speed of the Ducks. He might also listen to a local Columbus sportswriter talk about the Ducks inability to deal with the size advantage held by the Buckeyes.
However, the key to analyzing a game between two very different yet very similarly talented teams is to look at the head to head match ups of every player on the field.
The good news for you is it has already been done for you…and here is the last place you have to look to find out why the Buckeyes have no chance.
Jeremiah Masoli leads Terrelle Pryor in every measurable quarterback category.
After a less than impressive start to the season at Boise State, Masoli has become one of the best quarterbacks in the country. His 2,725 yards total offense is third in the Pac 10 and his 27 total touchdowns ranks him second.
He is the overwhelming key to an offense that averages 424 yards and almost 38 points per game.
His counterpart, on the other hand, Terrelle Pryor is still trying to find an identity for himself and the Ohio State offense.
He is throwing for just over 150 yards per game and has been sacked more times (17) than he's thrown touchdown passes (16).
This match up is clear. The edge goes to Masoli and the Oregon Ducks.
After bursting onto the scene in replacement of Doak Walker candidate, LeGarrette Blount, LaMichael James has been sensational.
The redshirt freshman from Texarkana, Texas has rushed for 1,476 yards and 14 touchdowns. Also, for backs with at least 200 carries, his 6.9 yards per carry leads the country.
As if James alone wasn’t enough, the Ducks also have the resurgent Blount back, who rushed for 46 yards and a touchdown in a limited role during Oregon’s Rose Bowl clinching win against Oregon State.
Throw in Kenjon Barner and Andre Crenshaw, and you end up with the no. 1 and no. 7 ranked rushing offense in the Pac 10 and the nation, respectively.
Ohio State’s backfield trio is not even close. Only one rusher on the Buckeyes’ team has rushed for over 700 yards, and that’s the quarterback. Brandon Saine and Daniel Herron have fewer yards combined than the Ducks’ James does by himself.
The clear edge here goes to Oregon.
This match up is a lot closer than most people would predict, but when your quarterback has the advantage it's pretty easy to give the nod to his receivers as well.
Oregon's combination of Jeff Maehl and Ed Dickson lead an Oregon receiving corps that averages 188.9 yards per game. They also put points on the board; scoring 16 touchdowns this season.
Ohio State's crop of receivers has been only slightly less impressive. Devier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher lead a group that has averaged 165.9 yards per game and has scored 17 times.
The advantage here goes only slightly to the Ducks.
The Buckeyes only chance is keeping the Oregon offense, with advantages at quarterback, running back, and receiver off of the field.
Clearly, they have a defense that is capable of doing so.
Ohio State is the fifth ranked defense in the country, holding opponents to 12.2 points and 263 yards per game. They also lead the nation in interceptions with 23.
Oregon, on the other hand, is giving up nearly twice as many points (23.6) and is ranked 32nd in the country in yards per game allowed (329.4).
In what may be the their only hope, this decided advantage goes to the Buckeyes.
In a match up of two very good teams, having an advantage on special teams is always a key to victory. This fact certainly applies here.
Neither Oregon nor Ohio State have anything to brag about when it comes to punting. Oregon's Jackson Rice's average of 40.3 yards puts him at 69th in the country, but it's enough to give the nod to Oregon when you compare it with Ohio State senior, Jim Thoma's 37.6 yard average.
Ohio State's Ray Small has not been particularly impressive returning punts, either. The senior has averaged around 8 yards on 33 returns so far in 2009. However, his ranking of 38th in the country puts him far ahead of any Oregon returner.
Contrarily, in the kickoff return category, Oregon's Kenjon Barner's 24 yard average on 27 returns far outpaces any Ohio State player.
The difference gets only slightly clearer in field goal percentage. Ohio State senior Aaron Pettrey is 13 of 19, while Oregon senior Morgan Flint is 15 of 17.
In a game that may come down to a special play in the "third phase" the very minor advantage goes to the Ducks.
This advantage is more about opportunity than anything else.
In Jim Tressel's nine year tenure at Ohio State, he has led the Buckeyes to eight bowl games, six BCS bowl appearances, and one national championship.
Chip Kelly has made every right move imaginable in his first season at Oregon. From his handling of the LeGarrette Blount fiasco in Boise, Idaho, his placement of LaMichael James as the new starter at running back, and his hand in the development of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli...he's been perfect.
We just haven't seen how well he can prepare his team after a month off. We have seen Tressel, however, and this gives him and his Buckeye team a significant advantage.
As you can see, Oregon holds advantages in all but two categories and therefore must win on January 1st.
Beyond any of the analytical talk, you just get the feeling that the Ducks, after all of the turmoil and proverbial rocks on the tracks that could have derailed this group, they have held everything together for this final shining moment in the sun.
When the sun is at it's brightest (under the lights in Pasadena) on the first day of 2010, the Oregon Ducks will have earned their just reward.