On Jan. 5, the Fiesta Bowl will feature the third meeting in four years of Texas and Ohio State. This has proved to be one of the most entertaining series in recent history and the Fiesta Bowl will serve as the rubber game between these two great programs.
Both teams enter the Fiesta Bowl riding a wave of disappointment. Ohio State was a top contender entering this season, but losses to Rose Bowl participants USC and Penn State ended their hopes at a third straight National Championship bid.
Texas is coming off an incredible season and they still have a legitimate claim to be playing later in January and with a dominating showing against OSU could possibly lay claim to the AP National Championship.
Offensively, Ohio State comes into this game very challenged in the passing game, averaging only 162.2 passing yards a game which does not crack the top 100 in the nation. This is partially due to QB changes and stylistic reasons, but a major factor is the underachievement of the Ohio State receivers.
Coming into this season, Brian Robiskie was touted as a first-round draft pick and possibly the most polished wideout in the nation, but only 37 catches and 419 yards later, his best prospects are a third-round pick or lower. Likewise, Jr. Brian Hartline has disappointed numbers going from 52 receptions one year ago to only 21 for 479 yards.
As a result, Ohio State's offense has been very one sided; the Buckeyes love to run the ball. Chris Wells logged his second 1,000-yard season, including five 120+ yard games, despite missing three games due a toe injury. Combine Wells with Pryor's 553 yards on the ground and it is clear this rushing attack will be the most ferocious thing this Texas' defense has faced and vise versa.
Texas is ranked seventh in the nation in rushing defense at 73.6 ypg and will certainly come to play against Ohio State and returning DE Brian Orakpo from injury will only make that defense more stout.
The Longhorns likely will need the help as college football sees a healthy Chris Wells for the first time since Week One. The dual threat of Terrell Pryor combined with Wells seems to promise more offense than in earlier OSU big games this year.
Texas brings an explosive offense to the table with QB Colt McCoy, one of the finest football players in the nation who not only is a throwing machine but lead his team in rushing attempts and yards. Its RB by committee in Austin, but McCoy has some fine targets to throw to in Jordan Shipley and Quan Cosby, who have a combined 1,934 receiving yards.
Shipley, Cosby, and the rest of the Texas receiving corps are faced with an excellent secondary, headlined by the excellent Buckeye corners Malcolm Jenkins, Donald Washington, and Chimdi Chekwa. Jenkins is an outstanding coverage corner and easily could be a top five pick in this year's draft; keep your eyes on him when the ball is thrown his way.
The weakest point of Ohio State's defense is their pass rush; they have recorded only 24 sacks this season but as the defense has become more aggressive it has become much more effective. Texas' weak rushing attack is a serious area of concern for the Longhorns because Ohio State excels at stopping one dimensional offenses and they proved earlier this season against Penn State they are finally able to stop a spread offense.
On Special Teams, Texas has a distinct advantage in the return game, and OSU has an edge in kicking and punting and something will have to give in this aspect of the game. Both teams have outstanding coaches and neither team will allow their disappointment to get in the way and this should be a war.
My Prediction: Texas 30-24