Breaking Down the Rose Bowl: Battle of the RBs

Keith Becker uosportsdude.comCorrespondent IDecember 15, 2009

Continuing with position breakdowns, today I’ll go over the running backs. If you missed yesterday's, you can read about the quarterbacks here .

After losing first round pick Beanie Wells last season, there were questions about how effectively the Buckeyes would be able to run the ball. Coach Jim Tressel downplayed it, instead talking up how Terrelle Pryor’s growth over the summer would account for the lack of the workhorse running back they are used to having (Wells, Antonio Pittman, and, dare I say it, Maurice Clarett).

That didn’t go according to plan, but Ohio State still won the Big 10 (11), even though they might as well have been playing against beer-league flag football teams. I mean, their biggest competition was Iowa. If you can throw five interceptions against the second best team in your conference, Indiana (the Hoosier!), and still win, then yeah, you have a weak conference.

In fact, their leading ball carrier is none other than the quarterback. Not a good sign for a team that is known for grinding it out on the ground. It’s amazing what teams will do to land a top recruit.

Apparently, Ohio State was willing to throw their entire offensive strategy out the window. But hey, I guess it was time to change it up. Getting smashed harder than Lindsay Lohan at an open bar in BCS games is only fun for so long.

But in all seriousness, the Buckeyes do have a legitimate threat in the backfield, even though he is third on the team in carries and gets little to no national publicity. For all the press than Pryor and DeVier Posey receive on the offense, junior Brandon Saine goes relatively unnoticed.

In fact, like Bill Livingston said in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the biggest case of tOSU neglect stands 6'2'', weighs 217 pounds, ran a faster 100-meter time (10.38 seconds) when he was Ohio’s high school state champion than Ted Ginn Jr., the old Glenville flash, and made second team All-Big 10, despite having only the third-most carries on his team.

Neither of the Ohio State losses can be blamed on Saine. He received only one carry for two yards against Southern California, while sophomore counterpart Daniel Herron ran 18 times for 44 yards, including getting stuffed at the Trojan goal line.

Saine also missed the Purdue game with an injury. But he has gotten healthy and turned on the jets lately, finishing the season strong with four touchdowns in as many games.

It will be intriguing to watch the Duck defense contain the Buckeye backfield, with an uncharacteristically fast offense matchup with the speedy Oregon side.

Meanwhile, we all know about LaMichael James. My No. 1 man crush also received Pac-10 freshman of the year and AP Third Team All-American honors.

James more than filled in for LeGarrette Blount; he made fans forget about him. He made me feel like I was playing a video game every time he touched the ball.

Case in point: the UCLA game  (fast forward to 55 seconds in).

LMJ’s short stature actually works to his advantage, allowing him to sneak behind the offensive line until he finds the hole and then bursts through it faster than Lance Briggs fled the crime scene after crashing his Lamborghini Murcielago in 2007.

The freshman has the highest yards per carry, at 6.9, than any other running back in a BCS conference.

The re-emergence of Blount only adds to the punch of the Oregon backfield. (See what I did there?)

For the first time all year, Chip Kelly can give LMJ a breather knowing that he won’t have to take a hit in talent at running back. (Oops, I did it again)

The running game has been the strongest point for the Ducks all season long, averaging over 236 yards per game on the ground.

But the Buckeyes are no slouches either, topping 200 a game themselves.

I think it’s safe to say that whoever wins the running game will most likely come out on top.


Oregon 10, Buckeyes 8.

Total: Oregon 19, Buckeyes 15.

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