The first order of business for Ohio State is to take care of a Michigan team that is thoroughly outclassed by the Buckeyes at nearly every position, especially on defense. I have faith that Jim Tressel will have his men ready for the game and that they will dispose of the Wolverines.
Therefore, this slideshow was produced under the assumption that OSU will win its seventh straight against the Buckeyes' rivals from the “school up north.” Thus, this slideshow will err on the side of well-rounded speculation.
The two most likely scenarios for OSU’s eighth BCS bowl in ten years under Tressel are the Orange Bowl and the Sugar Bowl.
OSU has not been to the Orange Bowl since Tressel took over and has only been there once before, in 1977, when OSU defeated Colorado 27-10.
As far as the Scarlet and Gray’s Sugar Bowl history, the team is 1-2. Its lone win came in 1999 against Texas A&M and the losses were to Alabama (1978) and Florida State (1998).
So how do the Buckeyes matchup against potential bowl opponents? Here are three most likely opponents, in order, that OSU stands to face in its bowl game.
Auburn quarterback Cam Newton.
I’m siding with Vegas, which makes Alabama the favorite by 4.5 points. Although I think Auburn will fall in Tuscaloosa, the team will rebound in the SEC title game against South Carolina. Since the SEC champion is contractually committed to the Sugar Bowl, that’s where the Tigers will end up.
This year the Sugar Bowl also gets the first pick of the at-large teams. I think the Sugar Bowl prefers a traditional SEC-Big Ten matchup over TCU or Boise State, not to mention OSU’s fan base travels very well.
As for the game, well this would be a tremendous matchup to say the least. OSU would have its hands full with likely Heisman-winner Cam Newton and Auburn’s defense certainly would have trouble slowing down Terrelle Pryor, Daniel Herron and the OSU offense.
Although OSU is fifth in the nation in points allowed, chances are the defense would give up a boatload to Auburn’s offense, which is good for 43 points a game and 308 rushing yards a game.
On the other hand, the Tigers’ defense is nothing special. They’ve given up 17 or more points in all but two games this season. OSU’s offense scores 40 points a game.
Recipe for a shoot-out right? Not necessarily. It’s quite rare for an OSU defense to get exploited and give up 30 or 40 points. In this game, they would emphasize a bend but don’t break philosophy. This game has all the makings of a classic and is also the most likely to happen.
If Auburn wins the Iron Bowl and moves on to the BCS title game and LSU beats Arkansas on Saturday, the Bayou Bengals would fill in for Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. The SEC-Big Ten formula still applies here, especially since these two teams met in the 2008 BCS title game, which LSU won 38-24.
LSU doesn’t pass either the eye or the numbers test. They rank 108th in the nation in rushing yardage, they rotate two average quarterbacks in Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee, and have won six games this season by seven points or fewer.
But they boast a defense that yields only 17 points a game and has a true shutdown corner in Patrick Peterson. Their coach, Les Miles, otherwise known as the Mad Hatter, may be quirky and unorthodox, but he wins games.
This game would be a bit closer than the 2008 matchup. The Tigers have less talent on offense while OSU has some more dynamic playmakers.
Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor
If the Sugar Bowl passes over the Buckeyes, likely for Boise State or TCU, then the Orange Bowl is where the men of Scarlet and Gray would end up next. Ohio State's likely opponent would be the Hokies, the ACC champion.
Following the Hokies' collapse against Boise State and no-show against James Madison, they have ripped off nine straight wins, scoring 41 or more points five times in that span.
They are led by senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor, a dual-threat who has a good touchdown to interception ratio (19 to four) as well as 2,082 yards through the air and 589 on the ground.
As long as the OSU defense can contain Taylor and stuff Virginia Tech’s 19th ranked rushing offense, the team stands a great chance to win this game. The Hokie defense hasn’t seen anyone with Pryor’s talent all season.