Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ohio State - Texas Fiesta Bowl Preview

Ohio State chokes in every big game. The Big Ten is a joke. Speed Kills. Tressel needs to be replaced - the game has passed him by.

For the past three seasons, OSU fans have had to listen to some variation of these criticisms and this bowl season has been no different. Whether it's Mark May and the geriatric bashing of the Buckeyes or Bachelor Palmer putting 30 confidence points on Texas beating us.

Call me naive, call me a blind OSU homer, call me whatever you want, but I give OSU a good chance of beating Texas in the Fiesta Bowl and here is why:

1) OSU is the best all-around defense Texas will face this season.

We've all seen how great those Big 12 defenses are. Can we all say "EXPOSED" when they were matched up with teams outside their conference. OU gave up 21 to UC at home (and UC was down to their third male cheerleader playing QB in the second half). Missouri struggled to stop a Northwestern team that OSU manhandled at home. And, Mississippi put up a million against TTU. I'm not worried about OSU's defense losing the game
for the Buckeyes.

Yes, OSU has struggled against spread offenses and mobile QBs, giving up tons of 8-12 yard passes, getting no pass rush and losing containment on the QB and allowing him to pick up vital first downs. I see this game being different because OSU's pass rush has improved, Texas doesn't have a serious running threat and their WRs, despite great numbers, are not game breakers who require extra attention. If Texas thinks that having their star QB run 15 times against OSU is a good plan, in the words of Judas Priest "You got another thing
coming." If Texas relies on McCoy to carry the load, they might just find him on the sidelines before things are said and done.

Don't get me wrong, I think Texas will put up 17-21 points, but if they think they're gonna stroll in and hang up 35...not gonna happen. Many will cite the USC game and say I'm crazy. But, OSU's best player didn't play a down in that game. Todd Boeckman gave USC 10-14 points and it was Mr. Pryor's first significant action. Mark my words: OSU's defense will not be the reason if OSU happens to lose to Bevo.

2) Texas has not faced a running game like OSU's.

Beanie Wells is arguably the best running back in college football. He has now had a month and a half to get completely healthy. The country hasn't seen a healthy Beanie since the first half of the Youngstown State game. It's a scary thing. Not only does OSU have a top running back, they've got a top rushing QB paired with him. If Texas thinks Frankie Muniz is a running threat, wait until they see Pryor sprinting down the sidelines, stiff arming their linebackers to the ground.
3) Tressel finally appears to be at least sampling the Kool-Aid.

For years Tressel has called spread offenses and trick plays a "gimmick." I am on of the few that still loves Tresselball and I get a little excited when we cover a 50 yard punt well, but I even I understand the need for diversity and unpredictability on offense. Lately, OSU has become fairly predictable on offense. But, I'm giddy about something that happened very recently...something magical...the words came scrolling across the ESPN Bottom Line, "OSU may use Terrelle Pryor and Todd Boeckman on the field at the same time in the Fiesta Bowl." Even if they never see the field together, it's something that Texas has to prepare for. And I suspect that Tressel means business this year. He's widely known to be loyal, sometimes to a fault, to his seniors. That isn't going to change in this game. Bedshitter Boeckman is going to see the field, but instead of a reason for OSU fans to cringe, I see him as the X-factor in this game (I'll wait for the laughter to die down).

If given time, he's a great passer. Yes, if he's pressured, he looks like a scared puppy who's not sure what to do besides lay down and curl up in the fetal position (sprinkle in some throws to the wrong colored jerseys). But, if Tressel runs some spread offense and can give Boeckman short to mid-range throws OSU is in business. When Boeckman is in OSU can't have him faking the option read on pass plays. This gives the defensive pass rush too much time to get in Boeckman's face and Texas isn't going to believe or cares that Boeckman is going to hold onto the ball and run. I can see OSU exploiting a very suspect Texas secondary without allowing Texas enough time to get pressure on Boeckman if they put him in the shotgun with 4-5 receivers spreading the field and the ball is out of his hand quickly. OSU's receivers Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline are future NFL receivers. They've just been forgotten because OSU has focused almost exclusively on running the ball. I see that changing against Texas. There will be plenty of running, but Tressel is going to throw the ball more often than OSU fans have become accustomed to and that will lead to OSU getting into the endzone more than OSU fans have become accustomed to against elite teams.

Texas is a great team and in my opinion should be playing against Florida in the national championship game. Their offensive stats are impressive and their only loss was due to a freshman defensive back missing a gimme interception. But, I see weaknesses that OSU can take advantage of and I don't think Texas respects OSU's physicality as much as they should. Above all, I have no faith in Mack Brown's big-game coaching. Could Jan. 5 be just another in a growing list of big game losses by OSU? Sure. But, for some reason I just don't see it this year. Pryor coming to OSU was the start of a new era, and the nation will be put on notice of his arrival on January 5th at 8pm.

Predicted Score: tOSU: 27 Texas: 20


Scott @ WFNY said...

Man, do I hope you're right!

(Also, great work on the pagebreak guys. Makes the front page a LOT cleaner!)

Alvaro Espinoza said...

Thanks for the comments and all the support Scott.

Took me awhile and going through several different websites to get the page jumps right, but I'm slowly reteaching myself some HTML.