National Title Game Preview  

Posted by Walter

Look, I’ll be honest. I am trying to get excited about the national title game, I really am. But, frankly, I just don’t think it’s going to happen for me. Nothing against OSU or LSU, but….well actually, everything against them. Both teams are entirely uninspiring, and while there are plenty of NFL worthy players on each roster, these are simply not the two best teams in college football. After what we saw from USC (who demolished the same Illinois team that went into Columbus and whooped the Buckeyes) and Georgia in their bowl games, how can there be any doubt one, if not both, of those teams is playing better than LSU and OSU right now. Not only that, but after a sterling performance against Arkansas and Virginia Tech respectively, one could almost, ALMOST, argue that Missouri and Kansas are playing at a higher level as well.

Nonetheless, after weeks of thinking about this game I believe I am ready to make my pick. Now, before I do, I just want to tell all those Buckeye fans out there that I tried as hard as I could to convince myself to take OSU. As early as 2 hours ago I was planning on taking OSU and the money line to win tonight……but that was before common sense kicked in. First, the factors that almost led me to make a foolish bet:

(1) LSU’s defense is overrated. – I think we can say we know this for sure after Darren McFadden and Arkansas were absolutely shut down by a mediocre at best Missouri Tiger defense. Yes that same Razorback squad that shredded LSU, could barely muster a touchdown against Mizzou. The same could be said for Kentucky, who ran up and down the field against LSU, but were held in check by Florida State. LSU may have some big names, but this is NOT the suffocating unit we all thought we were getting when the season opened.

(2) Coaching – In my view there is a clear, CLEAR, edge to Ohio State……at first glance. Jim Tressel has proved himself to be a master recruiter. Whether he is as brilliant a game manager remains to be seen. In Ohio State’s last two losses (Illinois and Florida), Tressel had absolutely no answer to his opposition’s spread offense attack. Both Ron Zook and Urban Meyer found weaknesses in the vaunted OSU defense and were able to exploit them while Jim Dandy sat around doing nothing. No adjustments, no alterations to the gameplan, only blowouts. It’s one thing to put together a great gameplan before the game, it’s quite another to do it at halftime. Now I am not saying that Les Miles is the second coming of Bear Bryant, he’s not, but I don’t trust Tressel just yet.

(3) Revenge – Yup, can you believe it? I almost talked myself into the Buckeyes based on last year’s debacle against Florida. All week we’ve heard how OSU has approached this year differently, and how they are all chomping at the bit to prove that last year was a fluke. That may well be true, but will it really matter? Are we to really believe that the reason OSU got BLOWN OUT last year was because they weren’t focused during the week? Are we really to believe that an extra week of focused practice would have made that team any faster or more physical? Heck no. It’s all about the players. Last year Florida had the better players, this year LSU does. It’s the national title game for goodness sake. Both teams will come out motivated, the better players will win.

All that said I am still going with LSU for the simple reason that they have the better players. It’s as simple as that. What, you don’t believe me? Well then, let’s have a look, position by position:

LSU: Matt Flynn and Ryan Perriloux
OSU: Todd Boeckman
Edge: LSU
Skinny: If this were just Flynn vs. Boeckman it’d be a draw. Both are seasoned veterans with limited skills, but great football minds. The presence of the dangerous Perriloux, however, tilts the scale in LSU’s favor. Neither Flynn nor Boeckman has the ability to take over a drive, much less a game, by themselves. While Perriloux may not be ready to win a game himself, he does have the explosion and big play ability to carry his team for short stretches.

Running Backs
LSU: Keiland Williams, Trindon Holliday, Jacob Hester
OSU: Beanie Wells and Maurice Wells
Edge: LSU
Skinny: Quick, which team had more rushing yards in 2007? Must be OSU with Beanie Wells right? Nope, actually LSU outrushed OSU by over 400 yards. While Beanie is clearly the best running back in the game, LSU actually has the overall edge at the position thanks to tremendous depth and versatility. Hester, LSU’s leading rusher, is a workhorse who will pound away on a defense just enough to open up some creases for the slippery Williams, and the explosive Holliday. The Wells boys are good, but three is better than two.

Wide Recievers/Tight Ends

LSU: Brandon Lafell, Demetrius Byrd, Early Doucet, Richard Dickson
OSU: Brian Robiskie, Brian Harline, Ray Small, Jake Ballard
Edge: Push
Skinny: The OSU numbers look a lot better, I concede that. However, consider the following. OSU’s top three wideouts (Robiskie, Hartline, Small) put up a combined 1757 yards and 17 TD in a combined 34 games. The top three LSU wideouts (Lafell, Byrd, Doucet) put up a combined 1708 yards and 14 TD in only 29 combined games. Getting Doucet back really makes this a dangerous group for the Tigers. A healthy Doucet would be the best pass catcher on most fields and he will be tonight. The LSU corpse is more dynamic and capable of far more than the relatively slow OSU quartet.

Offensive Line
LSU: Bret Helms, Will Arnold, Herman Johnson, Ciron Black, Carnall Stewart
OSU: Alex Boone, Steve Rehring, Jim Cordle, Ben Person, Kirk Barton
Edge: OSU
Skinny: There may not be a better offensive line the country than OSU’s. Barton and Boone are stalwarts at tackle, and they lead the way in both the running and passing game. That said, the LSU unit is nothing to scoff at. When healthy, Will Arnold is one of the top drive blocking guards in the nation, and both Herman Johnson and Bret Helms are all America caliber. Both units are strengths for their teams, OSU’s is just a bit stronger.

Defensive Line

LSU: Glen Dorsey, Tyson Jackson, Tremaine Johnson, Charles Alexander
OSU: Vernon Gholston, Dough Worthington, Todd Denlinger, Rob Rose
Edge: LSU
Skinny: Closer than you think. We all know how good Dorsey is, but in my opinion Gholston is actually the best lineman in this game. No matter who you choose, both players are superb athletes who have the ability to completely dominate a game. Given the relative excellence of these two players, it is actually the rest of the LSU line that gives them the edge. Tyson Jackson is a bit underrated playing in Dorsey’s shadow, and you’d be hard pressed to find a better pair of defensive ends than he and Charles Alexander. The OSU offensive line versus the LSU defensive line should be appointment viewing.

LSU: Ali Highsmith, Daryl Beckwith, Danny McCray
OSU: Marcus Freeman, James Laurinaitis, Larry Grant
Edge: Push
Skinny: There is no doubt that these are two of the top linebacking units in the land. Laurinaitis is a sure first round NFL pick, and some day so too will Freeman. For LSU, their trio is amongst the fastest ever assembled, particularly Highsmith and McCray. Both units are excellent, and what is most compelling is that they are completely different. I expect Highsmith and Laurinatis to match each other tackle for tackle, and the difference will be the LSU’s linebackers’ ability to match up in the passing game, something OSU’s may not be able to do.

LSU: Chevis Jackson, Jonathan Zenon, Craig Steltz, Curtis Taylor
OSU: Donald Washington, Malcolm Jenkins, Anderson Russell, Kurt Coleman
Edge: Push
Skinny: Two more outstanding units, with OSU probably having the better talent, but LSU having the better experience. Jackson and Jenkins are both top cover corners who should play big no matter what. For LSU, the real revelation in 2007 has been Steltz, a tackling and intercepting machine from game 1. LSU’s secondary might actually be a bit overrated talent wise because they are made to look better than they are thanks to their superb pass rush and linebacker speed. If OSU can give Boeckman time, the Buckeyes may be able to exploit this matchup.

So there you have it. On a straight player by player analysis LSU has the talent. Will they put it together tonight? Will the coaching hold up? Will someone I haven’t mentioned come up huge and make a monster play? Well, that’s why they play the game. For now, give me the team with the better talent. LSU wins it relatively easily, 27-17.


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