The Rose Bowl may not literally be 'The Grandaddy of Them All' anymore, but it's a welcome bid for both Oregon and Ohio State. It's been over a decade since either team sniffed the roses. The Buckeyes appeared to be in somewhat of a rebuilding year with big losses to the NFL and a young team coming back. Oregon might have expected the worst after an embarassing opener at Boise St. The last time the Ducks were in the Rose Bowl was '95... OSU, '97. This year the Buckeyes punched their ticket in an overtime game versus the Iowa Hawkeyes. Oregon gained their invitation by winning the Civil War against rival Oregon State. That's right, this years Rose Bowl features the Bucks versus the Ducks.
These teams have many similiarities. Both are 10-2. Both are led by dynamic quarterbacks. Oregon's Jeremiah Masoli finished the regular season with 2,066 yards passing and another 659 on the ground. His counterpart, Terrelle Pryor, finished with 1828 through the air and 707 on the ground. Each team has two effective rushers. The Ducks feature a speedy and dangerous LaMichael James, and the much maligned Senior, LaGarrette Blount. The Buckeyes' Boom Herron and Brandon Saine combined for 1,252 yards. The teams shared two common opponents, USC and Purdue. Oregon beat Purdue in Eugene 38-36. Ohio State lost to Purdue in Lafayette 28-16. Ohio State lost at home to USC 18-15, but Oregon smashed the Trojans 47-20 at Autzen Stadium. The early money line is Oregon-3.5.
Something has to give. Oregon is averaging a whopping 37.67 points-per-game - while Ohio State is only surrendering 12.17. LaMichael James is averaging 7 yards a carry. Ohio State has only given up 4 rushes of 9 yards or more all season. The Buckeyes went 37 straight quarters without allowing a 9 yard rush(must be some kind of record)! James broke one for at least 17+ in every game.
More Back and Forth:
Ohio State's rush defense is among the best in the country... the front line... may actually be the best.
Oregon's LaMichael James is easily the fastest and most dynamic back that OSU has seen all year.
Take out the opener against Boise and Oregon is averaging over 40 points a game.
Ohio State's defense isn't just the best in the BigTen - it's easily the best defense the Ducks will have faced all season.
Jeremiah Masoli is the most dynamic qb the Bucks have faced all season.
THe Buckeyes face Pryor everyday in practice, and he and Frosh Kenny Guiton are perfect Masoli clones for preparation.
Ohio State didn't fare well against Navy - the last option heavy team they faced.
The Buckeyes led the country in takeaways with 33.
Oregon wasn't far behind with 24.
Oregon has a clear speed advantage.
Ohio State has a clear size advantage.
Oregon has been a scoring juggernaut since mustering just 6 points and 152 total yards in their opener against Boise St. However, the Ducks will be facing a fully loaded defense. When Ohio State DT Dexter Larimore went down; Ohio State went back to the 'bend don't break' philosophy. The key hole plugger on the sidelines - teams were able to move the ball against Ohio State. Larimore is back, and could have a huge impact on this football game. The 6'1" 305lb junior takes away the dive, and creates pressure up the middle.
Coach Tressel needs to open up the playbook. He needs to run clock and control the time of possession because he can't afford too many three-and-outs with the usual vanilla offensive play-calls. Oregon is going to load the box. They have to. The Ducks simply do not have the size on the defensive line to stop Ohio State's own running game - unless they load the box. It's going to happen. Ohio State needs to come out with guns blazing. Pryor running, Pryor throwing, and who knows, maybe pryor receiving? The idea sounds ludicris, but Texas sure was surprised to see Pryor split out and Boeckman behind center in the FIesta Bowl. Bauserman is no Boeckman though - so don't expect to see him. You could, however, see Boom Herron in the wildcat. Basically, Ohio State needs to do what they haven't been able to do all year - be effective on offense.... unpredictable. Write this down. If Ohio State puts together just 2 or 3 long drives for touchdowns - this game is over. If the offense sputters with repetitive three-and-outs... Oregon could blow this team out. Oregon is going to get their points. Even if Ohio State plays lights-out on defense - this group of ugly ducklings(hey don't blame me for the uniforms) will score. The results are entirely predicated on the effectiveness of Terrelle Pryor and the Ohio State offense.
Enough with what I want to happen... and enough with what should happen. Here's what's likely to happen. Ohio State and Jim Tressel are going to try to run it down Oregon's throats. This may or may not work. On one hand - Oregon will load the box. On the other hand - this is an underrated Ohio State offensive line, especially in terms of run-blocking, and they'll be healthier than they have been all year. Before all the injuries and flu issues hit the OL - the OL was playing fantastic. I've been reading a lot of the normal, now almost expected criticism's from the Buckeye faithful about how the OL still stinks. Fortunately, most of those in-house detractors are just repeating complaints of years' past, and not paying much attention to how the unit actually performed throughout the season. Early, the Ohio State OL only gave up 5 sacks in the first 4 games. Late, the OL paved the way for no less than 228rushyards a game over the last three games. Two of those games were against strong defenses, Iowa and Penn State, which makes me wonder if Oregon will be able to stop Ohio State's running game, even if they load the box. When Sophmore Mike Adams and Junior Justin Boren are healthy and playing every down - Ohio State's offensive line is dangerous.
Turnovers and Special Teams could be the difference. I'd give the turnover edge to Ohio State, and the special teams edge to Oregon.
Ohio State 30 Oregon 24
With key cogs back from injury - Ohio State will beat the Ducks. While Oregon's offense is fast and explosive - it's hard to imagine that they'll break off huge chunks of yardage against a team that hasn't given them up all season. Masoli won't be running anybody over, and Oregon isn NOT going throw up a 40 spot.
Whatever the result - this will be a fantastic game.... strength on strength.... weakness on weakness. My guess is that Oregon's D will make Pryor and Co. look good, and that Oregon's Offense will make Ohio State's D look vulnerable. That's why I see a close game.