Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, Glendale, AZ
In 2005 and 2006, Ohio State and Texas battled each other in two titanic contests that would eventually see the winner play for the national title. This game will not result in a national champion but by no means is it an average game. Both teams have a lot to prove to themselves, their fans and the nation as they take the field on Monday night. Texas beat Oklahoma in the regular season yet, due to a tie breaker, the Big 12 sent the Sooners to the Big 12 title game which eventually lead to the national championship game. Texas wants to prove that they deserved the spot in the Big 12 title game and a shot at the national championship. Ohio State hasn’t beaten a quality opponent since beating #2 Michigan in 2006 and is desperate to prove to themselves and the sharply critical media that they are a national powerhouse and not just a Big Ten power. A victory over the heavily favored longhorns would do wonders for the national perception of the Buckeyes and also go a long way for the team psyche that has been taking it on the chin for the past two years. 28 Ohio State seniors will play their last game in the scarlet and grey and this is a chance for them to earn back much of the respect they have recently lost.
With 44 days to prepare for the Fiesta Bowl, the big question Buckeye fans are eager to answer is how much will Terrelle Pryor improve? With the added coaching, drills, film study and weight room workouts what sort of a leap can the young quarterback make? As young and gifted as he is, Pryor should be able to make significant improvements to his overall game, decision making and confidence are likely the two most important at this time, but Pryor can only improve as much as his offensive line will let him. The offensive line as a unit has to dig deep and play their rear ends off to stand a chance in this game. Running back Beanie Wells, in his swan song as a Buckeye, will play hard but if the offensive line plays soft then the effort will be wasted. Opening holes for Beanie and protecting Pryor is the most important improvement that must happen to ensure an OSU victory. In the last three big games, the offensive line has played flat. Opponents have been able to build big leads without any offensive production from OSU, mostly due to lousy blocking and poor effort. “The battle in the trenches must be won” is certainly a cliché but by no means is it an understatement for this game. The offensive line has to keep a swarming Texas defense from pressuring Pryor and it must open up holes for Beanie. If the Buckeyes are to win this game, the offensive line has to step on the gas and not let up for a full 60 minutes.
Not only did Texas lose out to Oklahoma for the Big 12 title game that lead to the National Championship game but they lost out to the Sooners for the Heisman Trophy as Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford took home the prize over Texas quarterback Colt McCoy. Still McCoy inarguably one of the best quarterbacks in the country and the Buckeyes haven’t done well against great quarterbacks lately. The one thing that is really interesting and a little befuddling is the fact that McCoy is also the leading rusher for the Longhorns and it’s not by a slight margin. McCoy’s 709 rushing yards is 304 yards more than any other back on the team. Senior running back Chris Ogbonnaya splits time with three other underclassmen but McCoy still has almost twice as many rushing attempts. To stop Texas the Buckeyes have to stop McCoy but pressuring the quarterback has been lacking in 2008. Be it play calling or effort, the defense can’t sit back on their heals and let the Longhorns come to them. Ohio State must resurrect the Silver Bullet attitude and come out with an attacking game plan bent on stopping Colt McCoy. In 2006, the Buckeye defense, led by James Laurinaitis, tore through the Longhorn offensive line and smacked around McCoy as a freshman. Now McCoy is a polished quarterback ready for some redemption against the Buckeyes.
How is Texas handling all the letdowns? No Big 12 title. No National Championship. No Heisman Trophy. If they come out with an angry chip on their shoulders, Ohio State won’t stand a chance but if the Longhorns let all the negativity effect their play then Ohio State can and probably will beat them.
UT 28 – OSU 13
Why OSU will win:
If Texas comes out crying about their title games and trophies or come out with a lack of respect for Ohio State, the Longhorns will lose. In addition, the Ohio State offensive line must play hard, angry, mean and hungry. They above all must want this game like no other.
Why OSU will lose:
If Texas plays a focused, relaxed game they will beat the Buckeyes.
Crazy stat of the game:
-In 2005, Texas beat Ohio State in Columbus, Vince Young was first runner up for the Heisman Trophy and beat USC in the National Championship game.
-In 2006, Ohio State beat Texas in Austin, Troy Smith won the Heisman Trophy and lost to Florida in the National Championship game.
-Ohio State has only one victory in the Jim Tressel era over a higher ranked opponent (2002 #1 Miami (Fla) 34-28).
Texas players to watch:
Junior QB #12 Colt McCoy
Senior WR #8 Jordan Shipley
Freshman WR #9 Quan Cosby
Senior DE #98 Brian Orakpo
Senior RB #3 Chris Ogbonnaya
Junior LB #38 Roddrick Muckelroy
Jujior LB #2 Sergio Kindle
Senior CB #13 Ryan Palmer
Freshman RB #28 Foswhitt Whittaker