BCS Championship Game
BCS Championship Game
BCS Championship Game: Ohio State Buckeyes vs. LSU Tigers
- Ohio State enters the BCS Championship Game as the No. 1 seed for the second straight year. The Buckeyes hope for a better result against their SEC foe this time around at the Louisiana Superdome. LSU and Ohio State will face off in the controversial game, which some believe could have seen Georgia, USC or West Virginia as deserving foes. Of note, the Buckeyes rank No. 1 in overall defense and LSU has struggled to a 1-7-2 ATS mark their past 10 games.
Ohio State held Michigan to 89 yards in a 14-3 win last time out, covering the 4-point spread. The 17 points scored were UNDER the posted total of 46.5.
Todd Boeckman went 7-for-13 for 50 yards and a pick, while Chris Wells ran 39 times for 220 yards and two touchdowns for the Buckeyes.
LSU put up 463 yards in a 21-14 win over Tennessee in the SEC title game last time out, creating a PUSH with the 7-point home spread. The 35 points scored were UNDER the posted total of 59.
Ryan Perrilloux went 20-for-30 for 243 yards, one touchdown and one pick, while Jacob Hester ran 23 times for 119 yards for the Tigers.
Ohio State: 11-1 SU, 7-4 ATS
LSU: 11-2 SU, 4-7-2 ATS
Ohio State most recently:
When playing in January are 5-4
When playing on turf are 9-1
After outgaining opponent are 9-1
When an underdog on the road are 5-5
LSU most recently:
When playing in January are 3-2
When playing on turf are 9-1
After outgaining opponent are 9-1
When favored at home are 9-1
A few trends to consider:
Ohio State is 23-2 SU in its last 25 games
Ohio State is 5-2 ATS in its last 7 games
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Ohio State's last 6 games
LSU is 18-2 SU in its last 20 games
The total has gone OVER in 7 of LSU's last 8 games
LSU is 1-7-2 ATS in its last 10 games
Re: BCS Championship Game
SEC enjoying stellar bowl season, but will it continue in BCS title game?
NEW ORLEANS -- As the red and black confetti floated to the Superdome turf early Wednesday morning, Georgia senior defensive end Marcus Howard said what the rest of the SEC has been spouting for years.
"The SEC is the best conference in the nation," Howard said. "You see all these teams winning bowl games. If you want to play the best football, come to the SEC."
Of course, there was one qualifier.
Howard's not convinced the right SEC team will be playing in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game on Monday night. He still believes Georgia was more deserving than LSU and points to the Bulldogs' 41-10 dismantling of Hawaii in the Allstate Sugar Bowl and their seven-game winning streak to end the season as proof.
"We're the hottest team, and I feel we're the best team in the country," said Howard, who earned Sugar Bowl Most Outstanding Player honors after sacking Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan three times.
But the reality is that the Bulldogs' total body of work this season didn't set them apart, which raises another question: Does anything we've seen thus far by the SEC or the Big Ten provide any clues as to what might happen Monday night in New Orleans?
It's always a dangerous thing to compare scores, and doing it this season is pure lunacy.
This much we know: The SEC is 6-2 to this point in bowl games, and the Big Ten is 3-4. There have been two head-to-head matchups. Tennessee beat Wisconsin 21-17 in the Outback Bowl, while Michigan pulled off the biggest upset of the bowl season with a 41-35 win over Florida and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow in the Capital One Bowl.
And that's where the fun starts.
The Wolverines were one of the biggest disappointments in college football this season. Their stunning 34-32 loss to eventual Division I-AA national champion Appalachian State to open the season ranks as one of the biggest upsets in history.
Who knew 40-point underdog Stanford would shock Southern Cal a few weeks later?
Michigan was also blown out at home by Oregon a week after the Appalachian State fiasco, but seemed to regroup. The Wolverines managed to win at Illinois, only to be spanked by Wisconsin.
But with more than a month to get healthy -- and wanting desperately to send retiring coach Lloyd Carr out the right way -- Michigan saved its best performance for the bowl game and shredded the Gators' defense.
That performance could be a little unnerving for LSU, which was vulnerable defensively in the second half of the season. Remember, the Tigers gave up 50 points to unranked Arkansas in a triple-overtime loss at home on Nov. 23, seemingly killing their national championship hopes.
But miraculously, the computer chips in the final BCS standings all fell LSU's way. West Virginia lost to Pittsburgh. Missouri lost to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game, and LSU survived a scare against Tennessee in the SEC championship game.
So much for the theory that you can't lose late and still play for the national title in the current system.
Not only did the Tigers lose late, but they lost in the next-to-last weekend of the season (to an unranked team at home, no less) and still were able to claim one of the top two spots in the final standings. But then, Ohio State lost to Illinois only two weeks earlier -- again at home.
It's the same Illinois team that was pounded by Southern Cal 49-17 in the Rose Bowl presented by Citi. And afterward, Illinois coach Ron Zook didn't mince words about what such a weak performance meant for the Big Ten.
"There's no doubt in my mind the Big Ten Conference can compete with anybody. I can say that, but we have to do it," said Zook, who's spent the bulk of his coaching career in the SEC as an assistant at Tennessee and Florida, and as a head coach at Florida in 2002-04.
Naturally, the SEC apologists will point to Ohio State's 0-8 record against SEC teams in bowl games as a sure sign the Buckeyes are in trouble.
Their list of victims is not exactly a who's who, either, especially the Ohio "gauntlet" of Youngstown State, Akron and Kent State.
Along those lines, though, how do you explain LSU's losing to both Arkansas and Kentucky? The Razorbacks turned around and were hammered by Missouri 38-7 in the AT&T Cotton Bowl.
And if Georgia thinks it has a gripe with the BCS, the Bulldogs might want to check with the folks from Mizzou. The Tigers went from being No. 1 in the BCS standings the final weekend of the season to being left out of the BCS bowls.
The constant in all this may be Ohio State's defense. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 1 nationally in both scoring and total defense and held the Wolverines to 91 total yards and three points in Ann Arbor in the final regular-season game.
That same Michigan team put up 41 points against Florida on Tuesday and lost two fumbles at the goal line, or it could easily have had 50-plus points.
And back to Georgia for a minute. The Bulldogs trailed Tennessee 35-0 before getting drilled 35-14 and didn't even win their division in the SEC. And, yes, that's the same Tennessee team that was humiliated by 39 points by Florida and 24 points by Alabama and then beat Wisconsin in the bowl game, the same Wisconsin team that lost to Illinois and beat Michigan.
What's all this mean?
Maybe Appalachian State deserves a shot.
Re: BCS Championship Game
LSU vs. Ohio State: The matchups
Breaking down the unit by unit comparisons between the LSU Tigers and the Ohio State Buckeyes.
LSU rushing offense vs. Ohio State rushing defense
Like a lot of the matchups in this game, what gives? LSU ranks among the top rushing attacks in the country and the second best in the SEC behind only Arkansas. The Tigers average 218 yards per game on the ground, which is 12th nationally. LSU features its first 1,000-yard rusher in four seasons as Jacob Hester topped the mark against Tennessee and has racked up 1,017 yards on the year and has scored 11 touchdowns. Keiland Williams is second on the team with 458 rushing yards while four other LSU players, including quarterback Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux have each ran for more than 200 yards. Ohio State is giving up just 77 yards per game on the ground, which ranks third in the country. The Tigers get the slight lean here.
LSU passing offense vs. Ohio State passing defense
Ohio State ranks No. 1 in the nation against the pass giving up just 148 yards per game through the air. The Buckeyes are also the No. 1 rated defense for opponent's passing efficiency. LSU has had its struggles throwing the football this season, but that has many been attributed to injuries. Matt Flynn battled a pair of injuries through the season (ankle, shoulder) and Ryan Perrilloux actually played the entire SEC Championship Game and was named the MVP. The Buckeyes' defense gets the nod here because of outstanding credentials.
Advantage: Ohio State
Ohio State rushing offense vs. LSU rushing defense
The Ohio State Buckeyes feature their own 1,000-yard rusher in Chris "Beanie" Wells. Wells has run for 1,463 yards on 254 carries and has scored 14 touchdowns. His backup, Maurice Wells (no relation), has accounted for almost 400 yards of his own and three more scores. The Tiger defense spent most of the season ranked the best in the country against the run, but poor efforts against Ole Miss and Arkansas dropped LSU's average yards against the run down to 14th nationally, 103 yards per game. Darren McFadden and Arkansas gouged LSU for big gainers as the Hawgs upset No. 1 LSU. Look for the Tigers to be much better versus the run as players like Glenn Dorsey have had a month of rest.
Ohio State passing offense vs. LSU passing defense
Replacing Heisman Trophy winning quarter Troy Smith was a tall task, but Todd Boeckman has done a terrific job in leading the Ohio State offense. On the year Boeckman has complete 175 of 272 passes for 2,164 yards, 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Ironically, Boeckman's favorite target is Brian Robiskie, the son of former LSU great Terry Robiskie. The younger Robiskie has hauled in 50 catches for 885 yards and 10 touchdowns. While those numbers are pretty good for a team in the Big Ten, the Buckeyes have likely not faced a defense as talented as that of the LSU Tigers. When Boeckman is not avoiding LSU's pass rush, led by All-American Glenn Dorsey, he must keep an eye on the Tigers' All-American safety Craig Steltz, who leads the team with six interceptions.
LSU special teams vs. Ohio State special teams
LSU's special teams didn't look all that great coming down the home stretch. The Tigers surrendered two punt returns for touchdowns late in the season and lots of big gainers on kick returns. But the Tigers do boast both the first team All-SEC kicker and punter in Colt David and Patrick Fisher. David has converted 58 of 58 extra points and 25 of 32 field goals. He led the SEC in scoring. Fisher averaged 43.8 yards per punt and ranked first in the conference in yards per punt. However, what LSU lacks in covering kicks swings the balance to even.
Lots of people believe LSU doesn't belong in the title game with two losses. Ohio State jumped seven spots in the final two weeks of the season to reach No. 1. The Buckeyes have lived a year's worth of embarrassment after getting throttled by Florida 41-14 in last year's BCS Championship Game. Ohio State would love nothing more than to redeem itself against another SEC team. However, playing LSU in its own backyard isn't necessarily the best way to redeem itself. The Tigers will be playing for the program's third national title, with the two prior championships having also been won in New Orleans. The Superdome will be rocking.
Re: BCS Championship Game
OHIO STATE vs. LSU (BCS Championship)...LSU has won and covered impressively for Les Miles the last two years in bowls. Although Tigers juat 1-8-1 last 10 vs. spread TY, and 6-11-1 last 18 as chalk. But Miles 9-1-1 vs. spread against non-SEC opposition while at LSU. Tressel had won and covered 4 straight bowls prior LY’s loss to Florida, and is 4-3 as rare dog since ‘04. OSU also 13-4 against line last 17 away from home for Tressel. Tech edge-LSU, based on Miles’ non-conference and bowl marks.
Re: BCS Championship Game
BCS Title Preview
The final game of the 2007-2008 season should be a quality match-up between two relatively even teams, as Ohio State seeks revenge for a blowout title loss to Florida last season. The Buckeyes seem to be in better position than last year to claim the title, especially since the offense won’t rely so much on the arm of Troy Smith – but they will lean on the legs of running back Chris Wells. Wells is facing a stiff LSU defense, but the Buckeyes will give him plenty of chances to pound it in the endzone, making him a top 25-30 option at the running back position. On the Tiger sideline, the defense will pace their attack, but senior quarterback Matt Flynn has to have a solid performance. Flynn missed the SEC Championship with an injured shoulder, but he should be 100 percent for Monday night’s tussle in New Orleans.
One of the most unusual college football seasons will come to a close in New Orleans with the LSU-Ohio State match-up deciding who gets to hoist the crystal ball. LSU appeared to be out of the national title mix after a loss to Arkansas, but a SEC Championship victory and upsets on the final weekend of the regular season moved the Tigers back into the title game. Ohio State finished the year by beating Michigan and watched as upsets cleared the way for a repeat appearance in this game.
Sizing Up LSU: Senior quarterback Matt Flynn isn’t going to wow you with his stats or his arm, but he is an efficient leader of a solid offense. Flynn threw for 2,233 yards and 17 touchdowns this season and battled a shoulder injury late in the year. The Tigers expect to have him ready for this game, but backup Ryan Perrilloux will see time. Perrilloux brings a different mix to the table, as he is a better runner and can make things happen outside of the pocket. When Flynn or Perrilloux throw, senior Early Doucet is the top option, but Brandon LaFell and Demetrius Byrd came on strong from the middle to the end of the season. Expect senior running back Jacob Hester to be a key player in this game. Hester totaled over 1,000 yards on the ground this year and his tough running between the tackles helps to keep the chains moving. Defense is where the Tigers earned their stripes this season and they are led by a talented group of players, including defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey. Dorsey battled injuries late in the year, but the coaching staff hopes he is 100 percent before this game. Additionally, the secondary is one of the toughest in the country to throw against.
Sizing Up Ohio State: In last year’s national title, the Buckeye offense stalled and was a big reason why this team was embarrassed by Florida. Fast forward to 2008 and the Buckeyes will bring a different offensive scheme into this game – a credit to head coach Jim Tressel’s ability to change and adapt. Quarterback Todd Boeckman took his lumps, but finished the year with 23 touchdowns and 2,164 passing yards. Boeckman is a solid passer and he’s not afraid to take a few chances downfield. Brian Robiskie was Boeckman’s favorite option at receiver, as he led the team with 50 receptions and ten touchdowns. Brian Hartline and Ray Small will also figure into the mix and both are legitimate weapons for the Tiger defense to defend. Although the Buckeye offense can be successful through the air, this attack revolves around the running of Chris Wells. Wells can kickoff his 2008 Heisman campaign with a big performance in this game, but he may find the sledding tough against this LSU defense. On a Tressel coached team, defense is always an important factor. The Buckeyes finished the year ranked first in total, scoring and pass defense, along with a third place finish in rush defense. Needless to say, this Buckeye defense was one of the most impressive units in college football and they will make life tough on the Tiger offense.
Who Should Shine: Don’t expect a shootout by any means. Buckeye running back Chris Wells may struggle early on, but don’t be surprised if he has a long touchdown run that puts his yardage total over 100. Both defenses should be solid fantasy plays and Tiger kicker Colt David should be a good bet for three field goals.
The Pick: Whether or not you believe the right teams are playing for the national title, throw that aside for the duration of this game. This should be a relatively even game with this one going deep into the fourth quarter undecided. The Tigers have won a couple of games with clutch play late in the fourth and that will be the difference in this game. Tigers 24 Buckeyes 20.
Re: BCS Championship Game
Tigers, Buckeyes set to settle BCS
As the saying goes, “defense wins championships”, so it should be no surprise that two of the top three defenses in college football will meet at the Superdome on Monday night for the BCS championship, when LSU (11-2) takes on Ohio State (11-1).
The Tigers won the tough SEC by dropping Tennessee in the conference title game, as they were powered by the nation’s third-ranked defense led by All-American lineman Glenn Dorsey. But the Tigers are not just a defensive team, as they ranked 20th in total offense, coming in 11th on the ground. Jacob Hester broke out in his senior season with a 1,000-yard season, while Matt Flynn is an effective quarterback who has not thrown an interception since November 10th against Louisiana Tech. The Tigers were also third in the country in turnover margin.
The Buckeyes rode the nation’s top-ranked defense to the Big Ten title and their second straight appearance in the BCS championship game. Their defense is tailored to funnel everything inside towards tough-tackling linebacker James Laurinaitis. The Buckeyes also allowed the fewest amount of points in the NCAA this year. Offensively, the Buckeyes are 57th in total offense but running back Chris Wells is capable of taking over a game at any time, going for over 100 yards in eight games this season with two 200-yard performances to boot. Todd Boeckman is a quarterback that takes care of the ball, and knows how to manage a game efficiently.
The Tigers are currently 4-point favorites in this clash of football powers to decide this season’s gridiron champion. Most of the Superdome crowd will be loudly backing LSU, although the Buckeyes will have the added incentive of erasing last season’s embarrassing loss to Florida. This game will be a defensive struggle between two of the college game’s best head coaches in LSU’s Les Miles (who passed on a move to Ohio State’s biggest rival, Michigan) and Ohio State’s Jim Tressel.
LSU: -4 (O/U 48.5)
Re: BCS Championship Game
(2) L-S-U (11-2) vs. (1) Ohio State (11-1)
GAME NOTES: The nation's top two teams have made their way to New Orleans, as the second-ranked LSU Tigers will battle the top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes in the BCS Championship Game at the Louisiana Superdome. The Buckeyes are in their second consecutive national title tilt and are hoping for a different result, as they were routed by the Florida Gators in last year's game, 41-14. Jim Tressel's team put itself in a position to play for the championship again by going 11-1 this season and capturing the Big Ten title. OSU opened the season by winning its first 10 games, before suffering a 28-21 upset loss at the hands of Illinois. To the Buckeyes' credit, they responded from that setback by notching a 14-3 win over rival Michigan in the regular season finale and finished the year atop the BCS rankings. Ohio State is 18-20 in bowl games all- time and had won four straight before the loss to Florida last year, including earning a national championship with the memorable overtime win against Miami- Florida in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. LSU is no stranger to the spotlight, as the Tigers won the national title just a few years ago as well, topping Oklahoma (21-14) in the 2004 Sugar Bowl. LSU is making its eighth straight bowl appearance and is 19-18-1 in 38 previous bowl matchups. Les Miles' team has reached this point by winning the SEC with a 21-14 victory over Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game. In all, the Tigers went 11-2, with the two defeats coming against Kentucky (43-37 in 3OT) and Arkansas (50-48 in 3 OT). This is just the third all-time meeting between these two teams on the gridiron. OSU owns a 1-0-1 record against LSU, and the two teams last met in 1988 with the Buckeyes claiming a 36-33 victory in Columbus.
The Tigers bring a potent offensive attack into this game, as the team is averaging 38.7 ppg (12th nationally), thanks in large part to 448.2 yards of total offense (20th nationally). It is the ground game that fuels the offense, ranking 11th in the country at 218.9 yards per game. In all, LSU scored a whopping 34 touchdowns on the ground, led by the rushing exploits of Jacob Hester. The 6-0, 228-pound senior eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau this season, amassing 1,017 yards and 11 TDs on the strength of 5.0 yards per carry. Just because the team likes to move the chains with the ground game, doesn't mean the Tigers shy away from the pass. On the contrary, senior QB Matt Flynn has the ability to make plays downfield. He completed just over 55 percent of his passes on the year, for 2,233 yards and 17 TDs. His job is made easier by a full stable of talented receivers. The marquee wideout is senior Early Doucet, who despite missing several games this year, still finished as the team's leading receiver with 50 receptions for 474 yards and four TDs. Brandon LaFell (48 receptions, 641 yards, three TDs) and Demetrius Byrd (33 receptions, 593 yards, seven TDs) provide two more reliable targets.
The LSU defense is an aggressive unit, allowing a mere 283.9 yards per game (third nationally). The team was particularly hard on opposing passing games, limiting foes to just 180.8 yards through the air (10th nationally) and recording 21 interceptions. A lot of that has to do with a feverish pass rush that recorded 32 sacks. The defensive line is as good as it gets, with All- American tackle Glenn Dorsey serving as the centerpiece. The 6-2, 305-pound senior has certainly piled up the hardware this season, winning the Outland Trophy, the Lombardi Trophy, the Lott Trophy and the Nagurski Award, while being tabbed the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. A dominant force in the middle of the line, Dorsey finished third on the team in tackles (64) and second in both TFLs (11.5) and sacks (6.0). His presence in the middle allows senior DE Kirston Pittman to get free off the edge. Pittman racked up 61 tackles this year and led the team in TFLs (12.5) and sacks (7.0). Senior strong safety Craig Steltz was a First-Team All-SEC selection and had a huge season statistically as well. The ballhawk led the team in tackles (97) and in interceptions (6). Veteran leadership continues with two more All-SEC First- Teamers in senior CB Chevis Jackson (42 tackles, four INTs) and senior LB Ali Highsmith (93 tackles, 7.5 TFLs).
The Buckeyes are a lot like the Tigers on offense, with a dominating ground game opening up the passing lanes. The team is churning out nearly 400 yards of offense per game, with almost perfect balance between the run (200.7 ypg) and the pass (196.4 ypg). First-Team All-Big Ten tailback Chris Wells is the engine which runs this unit. He rolled up 121.9 yards per game in 2007, averaging nearly six yards per carry (5.8) en route to 1,463 yards and 14 TDs. Junior QB Todd Boeckman had some huge shoes to fill taking over for Heisman winner Troy Smith and for the most part, Boeckman did the good job, earning All-Big Ten honors by completing 64.5 percent of his passes for 2,171 yards and 23 TDs. Being a run-first team, OSU didn't spread the wealth downfield that much. The team does possess a pair of top targets in WRs Brian Robiskie (50 receptions, 885 yards, 10 TDs) and Brian Hartline (46 receptions, 619 yards, five TDs), but no other receiver had more than 19 catches on the year. The offensive line was once again a force to be reckoned with, allowing just 14 sacks all season, while opening up huge holes in the ground game. The star up front is First-Team All-Big Ten tackle Kirk Barton (6-6, 300).
Ohio State finished the regular season with the nation's top-rated defense. The Buckeyes were first in the country in scoring defense (10.7 ppg) and total defense (225.3 ypg) and third in rush defense (77.1 ypg). OSU has its own All- American superstar in the form of Butkus Award winner James Laurinaitis. The 6-3, 240-pound junior was also named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year after leading the Buckeyes in tackles (103), with 8.5 TFLs, 5.0 sacks, two INTs and one fumble recovery. Joining Laurinaitis in the middle is senior LB Larry Grant (43 tackles, 9.5 TFLs, 5.0 sacks, one INT). Up front the troops are led by All-Big Ten end Vernon Gholston, who led the Buckeyes in TFLs (14.5 ) and sacks (13.0). The secondary is strong as well, highlighted by the play of All- Big Ten First-Team CB Malcolm Jenkins (44 tackles, 5.0 TFLs, three INTs). The 6-1, 208-pound senior is regarded as one of the top shutdown corners in the nation.
These two teams are very similar in their approach to the game. Both will try to establish the run, but will come up against strong defensive fronts. The weapons downfield for LSU may be the difference in this one. If Flynn is able to get into a rhythm early, the Tigers will prevent OSU from winning the national title yet again.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: LSU 27, Ohio State 20
Re: BCS Championship Game
BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
(1) Ohio State (11-1, 7-4 ATS) vs. (2) LSU (11-2, 4-7-2 ATS)
For the second consecutive year, Ohio State gets a crack at the national title against a team from the SEC when it invades the Superdome to battle LSU in the BCS Championship Game.
A year after getting upset by Florida in last year’s BCS title contest in Arizona, the Buckeyes won their first 10 games of the season to ascend to the top spot in the polls. However, a stunning 28-21 home loss to Illinois as a 15½-point favorite on Nov. 10 seemingly ended Ohio State’s national title hopes. But Jim Tressel’s squad rebounded with a Big Ten-title clinching victory at Michigan to end the season, then got lucky when West Virginia and Missouri lost their season-enders, allowing the Buckeyes to slip into this game.
Unlike Ohio State, LSU entered the season as one of the favorites to reach this contest. But a pair of overtime losses to Kentucky (43-37 on the road) and Arkansas (50-48 at home) left the Tigers – like the Buckeyes – needing help from West Virginia and Missouri to get to this spot. Les Miles’ squad was ranked No. 1 in the nation on two separate occasions this year.
Both teams won their respective conferences. Ohio State topped archrival Michigan 14-3 as a four-point road favorite in its regular-season finale on Nov. 17. Meanwhile, LSU rebounded from the overtime home loss to Arkansas with a 21-14 come-from-behind win over Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 1, pushing as a seven-point favorite.
Ohio State is making its third trip to the national championship game under Tressel. The Buckeyes upset Miami 31-24 in the 2003 Orange Bowl (2002 season) as a 12-point underdog, but got blown out 41-14 as a seven-point chalk in last year’s BCS title game against Florida. Overall, Tressel owns a 4-2 SU and ATS bowl record, including a 33-7 rout of Miles’ Oklahoma State team in the 2004 Alamo Bowl.
Including last year’s ugly defeat to Florida, the Buckeyes are 0-8 SU and ATS all-time against the SEC in bowl games.
LSU has won and covered both of its bowl contests since Miles took over, including last season’s 41-14 rout of Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. Overall in his career, Miles is 3-2 in the postseason (2-2-1 ATS).
The Buckeyes enter this game on a 23-8 ATS tear, including 5-2 ATS to finish the season. Ohio State is on further positive ATS runs of 6-2 versus teams with a winning record, 4-1 on artificial turf, 20-8 following a SU win.
LSU was a bad bet all year and closed 2007 on a 2-7-1 ATS slide, all as a favorite. The Tigers are also just 1-5-1 ATS in their last seven against winning teams. On the positive side of things, they’re on spread-covering runs of 19-7 in non-conference games and 8-2-1 on artificial turf.
In the last five years, the Tigers have played three games up the highway from campus in the Superdome, winning all three (2-1 ATS), including the Sugar Bowl win over Notre Dame last year and a 21-14 upset win over Oklahoma to capture the 2003 national championship. Meanwhile, Ohio State is 0-3 all time in New Orleans (1-2 ATS).
LSU has an explosive, balanced offense that puts up 38.7 points and 448 yards per game (229 rushing, 219 passing). The Tigers scored at least 28 in every game prior to the SEC title clash against Tennessee and topped the 40-point barrier seven times, turning that trick in four of their last five outings. QB Matt Flynn spent the majority of time under center, completing 55 percent of his passes for 2,233 yards with 17 TDs and 10 INTs, while backup Ryan Perrilloux hit on 68 percent of his throws for 694 yards with eight TDs and just two INTs.
The Buckeyes lit up the scoreboard for 32 points per game despite averaging only 398.3 total yards per effort. Ohio State was actually more successful on the ground (202.5 ypg) than through the air (195.8). QB Todd Boeckman, who took over for former Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith, completed 64.3 percent of his throws for 2,164 yards with 23 TDs and 12 INTs.
Ohio State rates the edge on defense, where it led the nation in scoring defense (10.7 points per game allowed) and total defense (227.6 ypg), while ranking third in rushing defense (79.4 ypg). The Buckeyes held seven opponents to a touchdown or less, and only Illinois scored more than 17 points against Ohio State.
LSU’s defense was solid this year, too, yielding just 19.6 points and 283.8 yards per game (181 rushing, 103 rushing). However, the Tigers surrendered at least 24 points in six of seven games prior to holding Tennessee to 14 on Dec. 1.
LSU topped the total in six of its final seven games, the lone exception coming in the SEC Championship Game. Also, the over was 3-1 in Ohio State’s last four, the one “under” occurring at Michigan. Finally, the over is 4-1 in Ohio State’s last five January games and 10-4 in LSU’s last 14 non-conference affairs.
ATS ADVANTAGE: OVER
Re: BCS Championship Game
Fast facts for the BCS game
* LSU rushing offense vs. Ohio State rushing defense: Tigers running back Jacob Hester is more of a fullback than a tailback, but he gets the bulk of the carries for an attack that is 11th in the nation with 218.9 yards rushing per game. Speedy slot receiver Early Doucet, who has had time to recover from a groin injury that kept him out five games, could get a few carries. Whatever the Tigers pull out, Ohio State will be ready with a defense that gave up only 77.1 yards rushing a game to rank third in the nation. All-American linebacker James Laurinaitis spearheaded a unit that gave up only two rushing touchdowns. Edge: Ohio State.
* LSU passing offense vs. Ohio State passing defense: The Tigers will use a combination of Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux at quarterback -- a combination similar to the Chris Leak-Tim Tebow tandem that the Buckeyes had trouble containing against Florida last year. Flynn is more of a pure passer and Perrilloux is a dual threat with a big arm, but the Tigers averaged a mediocre 229.2 yards passing. Ohio State gave up only 148.2 yards passing per game, the least in the nation. Pressure was key, as defensive end Vernon Gholston was fourth in the nation with 13 sacks to lead a unit that had 42 sacks. Speedy defensive back Malcolm Jenkins will be counted on to shut down Doucet, the Tigers' big-play threat. Edge: Ohio State.
* Special teams: LSU kicker Colt David and punter Patrick Fisher were selected All-SEC. David has made 25 of 32 field-goal attempts, and Fisher averages 43.9 yards per punt and has put 12 inside the 20. The Tigers' return units may be the team's biggest weakness, ranking 106th in the nation on punt returns and 88th on kickoffs. Ohio State ranks 117th on kickoff returns, but punt returner Brian Hartline is 19th in the nation. Ohio State kicker Ryan Pretorius made 17 of 21 field goals and was six for seven from beyond 40 yards. Edge: LSU.
* Ohio State rushing offense vs. LSU rushing defense: Buckeyes running back Chris Wells averages 121.9 yards a game and the Buckeyes line can wear out defenses, but they'll be up against three defensive All-Americans in LSU tackle Glenn Dorsey, linebacker Ali Highsmith and safety Craig Steltz. Dorsey won numerous national defensive awards and his run stuffing was a key reason why LSU gave up only 103.1 yards rushing a game and Arkansas All-American Darren McFadden was the only back to gain 100 or more yards rushing against the Tigers. Edge: LSU.
* Ohio State passing offense vs. LSU passing defense: Todd Boeckman isn't flashy, but he's efficient, ranking 13th in the nation with a 150.25 rating. He has a strong arm and gets good protection from a solid line anchored by Kirk Barton, but the Buckeyes playbook is conservative, so they are 88th in the nation in passing offense. The Tigers held opponents to 180.8 yards passing a game and had 21 interceptions -- both among the top 10 in the nation. Steltz led the SEC with six interceptions and led LSU with 97 tackles. Edge: LSU.
* Coaching: Jim Tressel has taken Ohio State to BCS bowls in five of his seven seasons, and three of them have been the national title game. He is 3-1 in BCS games and 1-1 in national title games, winning against Miami in 2002 and losing last season to Florida. Les Miles is in his third season with the Tigers, and there was speculation he would leave LSU for Michigan, where he was an assistant for 10 seasons. He's 33-6 at LSU, but critics say he's done it with players recruited by his predecessor, Nick Saban. Edge: Ohio State.
* Intangibles: LSU is playing only 80 miles from its campus and is playing a bowl game in the Superdome for the fourth time in seven years. The Tigers are 3-0 in those games. Ohio State hopes to counter that home-field advantage with experience. The Buckeyes are in the national-title game for the second consecutive year and 17 players on this year's roster were with the team when it lost to Florida last year. Whoever wins will become the first school to win a second BCS championship game. Edge: LSU.
* Prediction: Ohio State, 24-23.
Re: BCS Championship Game
BCS National Title Game: Who has the edge?
OSU RUNNING GAME VS. LSU RUN DEFENSE
Buckeyes' sophomore Beanie Wells ran for 222 yards against Michigan his last time out. Ohio State's offensive front is huge again, but that was the case last year when the unit couldn't handle the Gators up front. LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey is healthy and will draw double teams, making the rest of the Tigers' front seven that much better. Edge: LSU.
OSU PASSING GAME VS. LSU PASS DEFENSE
Quarterback Todd Boeckman completed seven passes for 50 yards and the Buckeyes' won comfortably against Michigan in the regular-season finale. Through the majority of the season, Boeckman was an efficient caretaker in the QB position, but he faltered near season's end in the Illinois loss with three interceptions. LSU will try to make Boeckman win the game. It's a matchup of the 87th best passing offense in the nation against the ninth best pass defense. Edge: LSU.
LSU RUNNING GAME VS. OSU RUN DEFENSE
Jacob Hester is a power back at his best running out of spread formations. Trindon Holliday is a breakaway threat. The Tigers have run effectively and consistently all year, but Ohio State will be the best defense they have faced. The Buckeyes are allowing just 77 yards rushing per game. The playmaking and running ability of QBs Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux could present the same kinds of problems Illinois' quarterback Juice Williams presented the Buckeyes. Illinois ran for 260 yards out of the spread against OSU. Edge: OSU.
LSU PASSING GAME VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE
Flynn can be erratic under pressure, but he has WR Early Doucet healthy and has game-breaking speed again. LSU's receiving depth doesn't present the problems that Florida's deep receiving contingent presented a year ago. Ohio State defensive end Vernon Gholston has 22 1/2 sacks over the last two years, helping the Buckeyes' rank as the nation's best defense against the pass this season. Edge: OSU.
LSU's Trindon Holliday returned a kickoff for a touchdown this season. Ohio State's Brian Hartline returned a punt for a TD. LSU kicker Colt David missed a 30-yard field goal try in the SEC Championship. Ohio State's Ryan Pretorius had three field-goal tries blocked, but he's probably the better long-range kicker. Edge: OSU.
Ohio State's Jim Tressel is making his third appearance in the national title game. His gameplan against Miami was brilliant when the Buckeyes' won at the end of '02. He learned from last year's Florida loss and will have his Buckeyes' mentally and emotionally ready tonight. LSU coach Les Miles can make his following nervous with his gambling nature and fourth-down calls. He is making his debut in the national championship spotlight. Edge: OSU.
LSU has a home-field advantage playing in its home state a little more than an hour from Baton Rouge. There is still motivation in wanting to help in the recovery of New Orleans. Ohio State takes a giant chip on its shoulder into this chance at redemption after last year's loss. The Buckeyes may be the least respected No. 1 team to play in a BCS title game and this highly motivates them. Edge: LSU.
LSU 19, Ohio State 18
Re: BCS Championship Game
It pays to be the underdog
History could be on Buckeyes' side; favorites have won only three of nine games
NEW ORLEANS -- For Ohio State fans anxious about their team's chances of beating Louisiana State in the national championship game Monday night, never fear.
Underdog is here.
Of the previous nine title games of the Bowl Championship Series, six were won by the underdog. Two memorable examples involved the Buckeyes, when they beat the University of Miami as a 12-point underdog in 2002, and when they lost last year to Florida by 27 points despite being favored by 7 1/2 .
This year, although the Buckeyes were No. 1 in the final BCS standings, the No. 2 Tigers are four-point favorites.
It doesn't make sense to LSU coach Les Miles, who said, "I can tell you this, in a game like this one, you tell me who the underdog is, the No. 1-ranked team in the nation or the No. 2-ranked team in the nation?"
Jim Tressel coached Ohio State in its two previous BCS title game appearances.
"Both teams are good when you're in this game," Tressel said. "And whichever team does the things that are needed is going to win.
"Outside of that, I don't know that there is any magical reason for (the underdog's winning record). But I know when we won and we were the underdog, we did what you needed to do to win that game."
When the Buckeyes were favored a year ago, not much went right. Being No. 1 all season long and having beaten No. 2 Michigan in the season finale dulled their edge, as did a 51-day layoff before the game.
This time, most analysts are picking against them. Some have even questioned their credentials, even though they won the Big Ten championship.
"I don't know who is telling them that," Miles said. "Maybe they need to hear that."
He might be right. The Buckeyes seem to like it this way. Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said it's easier to prepare being the underdog.
"Definitely, because last year, when you're in that position where you are No. 1 throughout the year, and everyone is telling you how unstoppable you are, it's hard to block out all of the good things people say about you," Jenkins said. "Everybody wants to hear praise, people saying good things about you.
"But you've got to keep it in perspective. We thought we did a good job with it, but as it turned out, we didn't."
This time, they haven't had to worry about motivation. The arrows of doubt have been fired at them since when they learned Dec. 1 that they were returning to the title game and again playing the Southeastern Conference champion.
The Buckeyes are 0-8 against SEC teams in bowl games.
"It's easier to focus when you have the whole world telling you that you not only aren't going to win, you're not even worthy to be in the game," Jenkins said. "It's more motivation."
Former LSU and Indiana coach Gerry DiNardo, now a commentator for the Big Ten Network, understands the underdog dynamic, but it comes with a caveat.
"First of all, to make it work, the underdog has to be a good team," DiNardo said. "And a good team from a traditionally strong football program gets more motivated by all the negativity."
The teams that have pulled upsets have that background: Tennessee, Oklahoma, Ohio State, LSU, Texas and Florida.
"You're taking about all traditional powers who have been told for a month that they're not any good," DiNardo said. "Well, they know better, and they proved it."
As a coach, though, what's best way to channel that noise?
"It think it can be as simple as telling the players, 'We know better,' " DiNardo said. "When people hear negative things said about them, I think most people take it to heart. Most people take it personally.
"And as a coach, if your players don't take it personally, I think it's a good lesson to teach them that they should take it personally."
Tressel and his coaches have played that card, commissioning a 10-minute DVD that contains all manner of televised putdowns during the past month, including the rants of LSU backer and political strategist James Carville. The players watched it during Christmas break.
Miles might not be aware of the noise, but it's there. He said he has told his players, "Respect your opponent. Understand that this opponent is very dangerous. And hopefully we'll play as quality a game as we can."
That's what it always comes down to, LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey said, because, "It doesn't matter who is No. 2, who is No. 1 or who is the favorite and who is the underdog, because when it comes down to the game, you have to come out and play hard."
Yet history shows the underdog has won six BCS title games.
"I don't take too much from that," Dorsey said. "Because six of nine? That's not 100 percent."
Re: BCS Championship Game
BCS Championship breakdown
Ohio State: Todd Boeckman had a solid season taking over for Troy Smith with 23 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions, but he threw four interceptions in the last two games including a three-pick effort in the loss to Illinois. He's not a runner, but he's not immobile and should be able to move around a little bit against the LSU pass rush.
LSU: Matt Flynn gutted it out late in the year despite being hurt. While not flashy, he's rock-solid in the clutch (the two losses were hardly his fault) and it a rushing option the Buckeyes will have to pay attention to. Interceptions are an issue throwing at least one in seven straight games before tightening up late. No. 2 man Ryan Perriloux is hardly a backup having gone 20 of 30 for 243 yards and a touchdown with an interception in the SEC Championship win over Tennessee.
ADVANTAGE: LSU, by a little. The two options give the Buckeyes more to worry about while Boeckman has to prove he can handle himself in the face of a steady pass rush. Boeckman will have to do more than the LSU quarterbacks to win.
Ohio State: Chris "Beanie" Wells was one of the nation's most productive, steadiest backs throughout the year. With an NFL-perfect blend of speed and power, the 6-foot-1, 235-pound sophomore a do-it-all back who can hit the home run and pound away as a workhorse. Maurice Wells is a veteran reserve who can catch, but he likely won't be used unless disaster strikes.
LSU: The star of a crowded backfield is bruising fullback Jacob Hester, who can kill a defense by pounding away for yards in chunks. Keiland Williams is a speed back with 226-pound size. Charles Scott was little used, but has the ability to breakout with a few carries. Trindon Holliday, at 5-foot-5, might be the fastest player in college football. He'll get the ball in a variety of ways to get him into space.
ADVANTAGE: LSU, by a little. It's all about options. Beanie Wells is the most talented back in the game by far, but LSU has a slew of runners who can be effective in a rotation. If Wells isn't on, Ohio State doesn't have any other viable options.
Ohio State: While they might not be Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez, Brian Hartline and Brian Robiskie are solid and steady. They were able to come up with big plays against average teams, but they need to prove they can light up a secondary as good as LSU's. Rory Nichol is a good blocker and a decent receiver, but the junior tight end wasn't used in the passing game late in the year.
LSU: Long on talent and short on big-time production, the receiving corps didn't take off until Early Doucet got over a groin injury late in the year. He's the gamebreaker who could change the game all by himself. Leading receiver Brandon LaFell is fine, but nothing special, while junior Demetrius Byrd, who led the team with seven touchdown catches, could be the unsung weapon if the Buckeyes worry about Doucet. Tight end Richard Dickson was a nice, unheralded target who caught 28 passes for 331 yards and three scores.
ADVANTAGE: Ohio State, by a little. If Doucet is on, LSU could have the advantage. Hartline and Robiskie will be great if things are going well and Todd Boeckman has time, but they'll disappear for stretches.
Ohio State: Tremendous all season long, this is easily one of the five best lines in the country. Tackles Kirk Barton and Alex Boone are special, with the 6-foot-6, 300-pound Barton the better of the two, while the interior grew better and better as the year went on. Few lines were better in pass protection.
LSU: It wasn't as good as it should've been. Massive 6-foot-7, 356-pound junior Herman Johnson is a killer at left guard, and Ciron Black will grow into an NFL caliber tackle, but the line, overall, should have problems with Ohio State's speed up front. If this group isn't pounding away for the running game, it could potentially be the weak link. If the line dominates, LSU will win in a walk.
ADVANTAGE: Ohio State. The Buckeyes have to at least hold even with the terrific LSU defensive front, while LSU's front five has to figure out how to keep Vernon Gholston out of the backfield and has to control the running game from the start.
Ohio State Vernon Gholston single-handedly destroyed the Michigan offense and cranked out four sacks against Wisconsin, but consistency was a problem. The young front four got into the backfield, and held firm throughout the year against the run, but it got pushed around late by Illinois and has to prove it can old up against LSU's massive O line.
LSU Glenn Dorsey and USC's Sedrick Ellis were the two best tackles in the country, and Dorsey was doing it with a bad knee and back. Now that he's healthy, this could be the jaw-dropping, Miami-must-take-him performance everyone's been waiting for since the cheap shot on his knee against Auburn. Tyson Jackson has all the NFL tools, but had a disappointing junior year. DT Marlon Favorite and DE Kirston Pittman should shine with all the attention paid to a healthy Dorsey.
ADVANTAGE: LSU. If Gholston is neutralized, Ohio State's defense could have problems. A healthy Dorsey makes the already tremendous LSU line truly scary.
Ohio State: James Laurinaitis has been saying he's coming back for his senior year, but that could quickly change. Likely a top-10 pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, if he comes out, he'll have to clean up several messes if the LSU running game is rolling. Don't blame him for the loss to Florida; he cranked out 15 tackles and was one of the few playmakers. Marcus Freeman and Larry Grant don't get their due publicity with all the attention paid to Laurinaitis, but they're disruptive forces.
LSU: Ali Highsmith is a slightly undersized terror in the backfield. With all the attention paid to the LSU defensive line, Highsmith has to be accounted for on every play. Darry Beckwith is finally healthy after being banged up over the second half of the year, and he should have double-digit tackles in the middle. The combination of players on the strongside are average.
ADVANTAGE: Ohio State. Highsmith and a healthy Beckwith will be fantastic, but the Buckeye linebacking corps is special.
Ohio State: Malcolm Jenkins is the star of the nation's best pass defense with size, fantastic closing speed, and first round talent. Donald Washington, back in the mix after his suspension, isn't too far behind. The safeties, Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell don't get much press, but they're strong hitters.
LSU: Craig Steltz might have been the nation's best defensive back this year. With a nose for the ball both in the air and on the ground, he's always making big plays and is always around the ball. The corners are great, but they're not as good as they get credit for. Senior Chevis Jackson will be an NFL starter, but he can be beaten.
ADVANTAGE: Ohio State, by a little. Was the secondary so good because of the pass rush or was the pass rush effective because the secondary was closing everyone down? A little of both. This will be one of the key areas for OSU; can the safeties handle the LSU deep speed?
Ohio State: PK Ryan Pretorius is among the best in the country. Three of his four misses were blocks. Punter A.J. Trapasso is a weapon who can bail the offense out of any bad situation. Brian Hartline is an effective, but not sensational punt returner, while kickoff returns have been a disaster.
LSU: The kicking game is one of the few in America good enough to match up with Ohio State's, but as good as PK Colt David was, will the coaching staff trust him to hit a 40-yarder in crunch time? The return game was miserable, but Trindon Holliday and Early Doucet have the speed to break open any game with a little bit of room to move.
ADVANTAGE: Ohio State. The kicking game is a little bit better and the punt return game is a wee bit more effective.
Ohio State: Jim Tressel remains one of the elite of the elite big-game coaches. The Florida loss was a major blemish on an otherwise spotless record, and he and his staff aren't going to let that happen again.
LSU: Les Miles might be the best coach-from-the-gut game managers around. Not given much credit as an X-and-O guy, almost all his big gambles paid off this year. Now that the Michigan soap opera is in the past, he's been able to focus on the task at hand.
ADVANTAGE: Ohio State. Miles has been terrific since showing up in Baton Rouge, taking what Nick Saban started and making the program even better, but Tressel has grown into an all-time great.
Re: BCS Championship Game
BCS Championship Preview
The Ohio State Buckeyes were beaten badly in the BCS title game last season, so they'll be looking for a much better result when the play the LSU Tigers on Monday night.
The top-ranked Buckeyes will take on No. 2 LSU in this year's national championship contest, but if they win they'll have to do it as the underdog - LSU opened as a 6-point favorite in this contest, with that line hovering between 3 and 4 points at various sports books in the past week. The game's total, which opened at 50, is now at just 48 points.
Ohio State is coming off a 14-3 win over Michigan way back on November 17. That victory put their record at 11-1 on the season, and it put the team in position to move up the rankings as others stumbled. Chris Wells had both Ohio State touchdowns against Michigan, rushing for 222 yards and the two scores on 39 carries in the crucial contest.
Buckeyes quarterback Todd Boeckman went just 7-of-13 for 50 yards passing in the win, with no TDs and one interception. On the season Boeckman threw for 2,171 yards and 23 touchdowns and was picked off 12 times. Top targets Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline were quiet against Michigan, but they combined for 15 TD catches this season.
The Ohio State defense held Michigan to just a first-quarter field goal in their regular-season finale, and Wolverines running back Mike Hart had only 44 yards rushing on 18 carries. Chad Henne was ineffective as well, going 11-of-34 for only 68 passing yards.
The Buckeyes will now be looking to do a similar job on Matt Flynn and his Tigers offense on Monday night. LSU's championship hopes looked dead after they lost 50-48 to Arkansas on November 23, but a 21-14 win over Tennessee in the Southeastern Conference championship on December 1 vaulted them into the national championship.
Erik Ainge threw two touchdown passes to stake Tennessee to a lead in that contest, but Jonathan Zenon returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to give LSU the victory. Ryan Perrilloux, starting in place of an injured Flynn for the Tigers, went 20-of-30 for 243 yards passing on the day, with one touchdown and one interception. Jacob Hester rushed for 120 yards on 23 carries in the SEC championship.
Flynn (shoulder) is probable to play on Monday night, so he'll be looking to add to his season totals of 2,233 passing yards and 17 touchdowns (with 10 interceptions). Hester ran for 1,017 yards and 11 TDs this season, and Demetrius Byrd had seven TD grabs.
Here are the injury reports for both LSU and Ohio State for Monday's championship:
Charles Alexander DT Out For Season (knee)
Derrick Odom LB Out For Season (disciplinary)
Mark Snyder OT Out For Season (knee)
Will Arnold G Questionable For Bowl Game (illness)
Darry Beckwith LB Probable For Bowl Game (ankle)
Early Doucet WR Probable For Bowl Game (shoulder)
Matt Flynn QB Probable For Bowl Game (shoulder)
Trindon Holliday RB Probable For Bowl Game (ankle)
Ryan Perrilloux QB Probable For Bowl Game (finger)
Ohio State Injuries
Eugene Clifford CB Out For Season (disciplinary)
Curtis Terry LB Out For Season (ankle)
Robert Rose DL Doubtful For Bowl Game (leg)
Ross Homan LB Questionable For Bowl Game (toe)
Lawrence Wilson DE Questionable For Bowl Game (leg)
Donald Washington DB Probable For Bowl Game (disciplinary)
The Tigers haven't been kind to bettors this season - they haven't picked up an against-the-spread win since November 10 against Louisiana Tech, and they've only covered four times in total. In fact, three of those four covers came in the first three weeks of the season, so LSU is 1-7-2 ATS over their past 10 outings. OVER bettors have enjoyed the Tigers this year, though, as the Tigers are 9-4 on the OVER/UNDER in 13 contests.
Ohio State has been a better wager this year; they've covered in three of their past four games, and they went 7-4 ATS overall in games that had odds posted for them. The Buckeyes have also gone slightly to the OVER this season, posting a 6-5 totals record.
Kickoff for Monday night is set for 8:00pm ET on FOX, with the pregame show starting at 7:30pm ET.
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