Too big. Too fat. Too slow. These are the labels the media have hung on Ohio State over the last few years.
But is it warranted? Are the Buckeyes really physically slower than the other elite programs in college football?
It all started after the 2006 national championship game against Florida, a game Ohio State lost 41-14. The defense was clearly not prepared for the multiple offensive looks the Gators threw their way, and being caught out of position led to several big plays for the Gators.
As analyst Charles Davis so eloquently put it, "Cloudy minds equal slow feet."
With the 41 points Florida scored, much of the attention was placed on the offense. However, the offense had a very normal 214 yards passing and averaged only 3.4 yards per rush.
A closer look reveals it was actually the defense that made the big plays.
The Gator defensive line owned the Buckeye front five, forcing two turnovers, sacking Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith five times, and allowing only four completions all game.
In 2007 the Buckeyes found themselves in the national championship again, this time against Louisiana State University. Again, the pre-game buzz was about speed. Would the Buckeyes have enough team speed to play with another mighty SEC team?
The answer came quickly.
Ohio State's Chris Wells broke through the heart of the LSU defense in the first quarter in route to a 65-yard touchdown run. Tiger defenders gave chase but could not run down the Buckeyes' 235-pound tailback.
After that, it was all Tigers.
The story of this game was again Ohio State's offensive line play. The LSU defensive line—particularly Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson—dominated the OSU offensive line, keeping constant pressure on Buckeye quarterback Todd Boeckman and forcing him into two interceptions.
The LSU offense came up with some timely plays, going 11-for-18 on third down, and led the Tigers to a 38-24 victory.
After the game LSU All-American defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey was asked about Ohio State's speed. He responded by saying the Buckeyes are just as fast as any team in the SEC and that the whole question about Ohio State's speed is a joke.
Enough said. End of story. Right?
When the Buckeyes traveled out to the left coast in September for a matchup with Southern California, there wasn't as much talk about speed as in the national championship games. This time the focus was on the play of the offensive line, and rightfully so.
Although USC's dynamite tailback Joe McKnight ran circles around the OSU defense, he would run circles around every defense in the country. And without star tailback Chris Wells, the Ohio State offense would be very predictable.
Again the story of the game was the junior varsity play of the offensive line. Their blocking, or thereof, led to a 2.1 yards per rush average, two interceptions, and five sacks.
Heading into a Fiesta Bowl matchup with Texas, the Buckeye bashers are once again screaming about speed.
Yes, the Longhorns are just as fast as any team in the country. And so is Ohio State.
So, the bottom line is this: The outcome of the game will once again come down to the men in the trenches, and not how fast Ohio State players can run a 40-yard dash.
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