OSU ranks No. 1 and LSU No. 3 in yards per game allowed this season, but OSU only allowed 10 points per game during their 11-1 season, while LSU gave up nearly 20 a game on their way to 11-2.
With LSU having lost two close games in overtime this season, it is safe to assume that a close, slow-paced game favors the Buckeyes.
As good as they are, the LSU defense possesses weaknesses. With Jim Tressel at the helm, those weaknesses are sure to be exploited. LSU is ranked an unimpressive 43rd in the nation in pass efficiency, while Ohio State has the top-ranked pass defense in the country.
If the Buckeyes are on their game, LSU will have a difficult time moving the ball through the air. Granted, OSU will still have to find a way to contain the dangerous trio of Tiger receivers Brandon LaFell, Demetrius Byrd, and Early Doucet. If they can thwart LSU’s passing attack early, Les Miles will be forced to slow the game down and run the ball.
OSU’s run defense is ranked third nationally, only allowing 77 yards per game on the ground. If they manage to survive LSU’s passing game, they will have to contain another dangerous trio in the form of the Tigers’ running backs—Jacob Hester, Keiland Williams, and Trindon Holliday. Each of these three backs has the capability to explode. Their bread-and-butter, Hester, is one of the strongest backs in the country, while Williams and Holliday each averaged seven yards per carry this year. Limiting the strengths and big-play abilities of all three of these backs will be one of the key ingredients for a Buckeye win in New Orleans.
On offense, Jim Tressel will need to find a way to work the Wells Brothers, Chris and Maurice, into the game early. This LSU defense has certainly bent at times this year, giving up over 100 yards per game on the ground over the course of the season, and yielding 50 points to Darren McFadden and the Razorbacks on the second-to-last weekend of the season.
The Buckeyes have looked their best this year when Chris Wells has become a presence, so in order for the Buckeyes to keep close, Beanie will have to put on a performance mirroring that of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Maurice Clarett, during Ohio State’s National Championship conquest in 2002.
One area where LSU has been dominant all year long is the turnover category, and this will be the final element which Ohio State will need to control in order to win. The Tigers are +19 in turnover ratio this year, ranked fifth in the nation. Both teams have turned the ball over less than 20 times this season, but LSU’s 33 takeaways to OSU’s 18 is a staggering differential. The Buckeyes will need to limit mistakes for all four quarters in order to be effective against a fierce Tiger defense.
It will be the Buckeyes ability to stop the pass early, keep both sides of the game on the ground, and stop the big play or mistake from hurting them, which will determine the new national champ.