January 7, 2008

Tale of the tape: LSU

All season long we have looked at the tale of the tape between the Buckeyes and their opponent. More often than not we were right on with our predictions (outside of the Illinois game). Now the biggest game of the season is just hours away and it is time for the final installment of the tale of the tape. In a game that appears to be so close there is no need for star rankings from unit to unit, we are just picking who wins each battle.



Ohio St. QBs/WRs/TEs

It might be one of the best units in the nation that nobody knows anything about. Led by Craig Steltz the LSU secondary is holding opponents to a 46-percent completion rate and has 21 interceptions. The Tigers have great size and speed in the secondary and Chevis Jackson leads the team in interceptions and is one of three seniors in the starting secondary (only Curtis Taylor is a junior).

There is no chance that the Ohio State skill players will have to play under the conditions that turned the Big House into a soggy mess in the finale. Todd Boeckman has reportedly been sharp during bowl practices and will be backed up by Antonio Henton who will give them a new dimension. It will be imperative for Brian Robiskie and Brian Hartline to get into the rhythm with Boeckman. It all could come down to what Ray Small and the tight ends are able to do, especially if the pocket is collapsing and Boeckman has to dump it quickly.

Ohio St. RBs

With all of the credit that goes to the defensive line the linebackers seem to miss the notice of many people. Ali Highsmith is the best of the bunch and always seems to know where to be at the right time for the Tigers. Both Darry Sanders and Luke Sanders have been solid players but there is no real flashy player at the position that is going to change offensive gameplans.

It wouldn't be fair to say that Chris Wells is the Ohio State running game but it would be fair to say that if Wells went out that it would cause a major shift in the game plan. Beanie rushed for more than 1,400 yards on the season and has done most of it on a bad ankle and battled a hand and a hamstring injury. Both Maurice Wells and Brandon Saine have carried the ball in a backup role but it is critical that Beanie is able to go. The question will be if Beanie will be able to find a way to run between the tackles with a tough LSU front four.


Ohio St. OL

Glenn Dorsey is the highly recognizable name on the defensive line but he is gar from being the only playmaker in the front four. Kirston Pittman is a beast at the right end while Tyson Jackson[db] is a load on the other side at 291 pounds. Just like with most of the LSU defense the DL is filled with upperclassmen and guys who have more than a few skins on the wall. The Tigers are allowing 103 yards a game but most of that comes outside the tackles and from scrambling quarterbacks. It will be a challenge to break off too many big runs through the interior.

The Ohio State offensive line has been described as big and massive more than one time by the LSU team and faithful. [db]Kirk Barton is going to be in his final college game and the well-liked and humorous right tackle would like to go out as a winner (don't ask him about cigars this time around). One of the biggest match-ups will come from how Jim Cordle and the guards are able to shut down Main Street. If the OL can open holes and keep Boeckman upright the Buckeyes will find the road infinitely easier than if not.

Ohio St. DBs

Is Matt Flynn 100-percent? Les Miles is saying all the right things about his team being healthier than before, but that is just an evasive way of answering the question. Back up Ryan Perrilloux should see some snaps but it is up in the air how many. Early Doucet is just one of many talented (and big) receivers that the Tigers will throw at the Bucks. Ohio State better be ready for wave after wave of challenges and it will put a premium on protection for the LSU QB to let the receivers get open.

Is this the last time fans will see Malcolm Jenkins in a college game? Will there be any residual distraction effects around the Donald Washington situation? All of those subplots will have to be put aside for the Buckeyes to have any success shutting down LSU. The Buckeyes get the nod here not because of the secondary being better than the skill straight up but in mixing the pass rush the Bucks should have the slightest of advantages in this match-up. Look for Anderson Russell to be in the middle of a lot of action.


Ohio St. LBs

Jacob Hester doesn't look like a big-time SEC running back if you see him in street clothes. Put on a jersey and a helmet and he becomes a man possessed. Hester rushed for more than 1,000 yards but he is far from the only weapon. Speedy Trindon Holliday and Keiland Williams both have gamebreaking speed and will keep the Ohio State defense on edge. Illinois was able to exploit the Bucks with a big running back in Rashard Mendenhall… the Tigers don't have a back like that so it will be interesting to see how LSU attacks a stingy OSU run defense.

The Ohio State linebackers are undoubtedly strong. James Laurinaitis has the hardware to show why he is a first team All-American while Marcus Freeman and Larry Grant both hold their own. If Ohio State has to play the nickel then Grant won't see much time as the first backer off the field. It will be important for the linebackers to know where Flynn is when the pocket collapses because even though he is not a "running quarterback" he has been able to create with his legs when need be. Ohio State can not allow LSU to pick up big third down conversions on broken plays.

Ohio St. DL

The left side of the line is big and mean for the Tigers. Ciron Black is a top-notch lineman and Herman Johnson is a human solar eclipse (listed at 6-foot-7, 356-pounds in the BCS media guide). The Buckeyes might have more success going on the right side with Carnell Stewart and Lyle Hitt hoping to keep the Ohio State pass rush out of the backfield.

Vernon Gholston got the attention of many NFL general managers with his outing against Michigan in November. Monday night could be another million dollar night for when Vern goes pro. The Buckeyes will look to move him around just as they did against Michigan and likely into a more favorable match-up against Stewart. Will Lawrence Wilson be able to go? Even with the doubtful tone of the coaching staff don't be surprised if he plays 20 plays in the game. The Bucks have to get production from the interior line to help keep LSU honest.
LSU Special Teams

Ohio St. Special Teams

It is a good news/bad news situation for LSU special teams. Colt David is a solid field goal kicker (when not running in fakes) and Trindon Holliday is a great kickoff returner. The Tigers are middle of the pack in net punting as a team and punt returns have been average at best. Weather will not be a concern for this game so any bad kicking will be magnified without the built in Mother Nature excuse removed

Ohio State has not been setting the world on fire with its special teams as well this year. Ryan Pretorius has looked good this year but it not automatic. A.J. Trapasso has the ability to uncork booming punts but sometimes mixes in a shank in there. The return game has been stuck in neutral most of the year and most importantly the kick/punt coverage will be paramount. If Ohio State can keep LSU from getting short fields with big returns the task will be much easier for the defense.

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