Toronto Star

Why Buckeyes will win

Underdog Ohio State takes 11-1 record to Louisiana to face the talented Tigers

- RUSTY MILLER ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW ORLEANS— Despite what they’re saying in Las Vegas, the odds favour Ohio State beating LSU in the national championsh­ip game tonight. Here’s why: The Buckeyes have to look better than they did a year ago when they were blistered by Florida 41-14 in the title game.

That 0-8 record against Southeaste­rn Conference teams has to end sometime. The Buckeyes came to New Orleans with a purpose. That was to quiet all the critics who have mocked them for playing a soft schedule and for “backing in” to the title game. Hey, it isn’t their fault about a dozen other teams couldn’t seal the deal when they had to. All Ohio State did was go 11-1. Now comes the hard part, finding a way to beat a deep and talented LSU team playing in its home state in a stadium that’s a second home. Here’s how coach Jim Tressel and his staff will approach it: QBs: If Todd Boeckman gets time, he’s effective. When he doesn’t, he’s in trouble. Ohio State will go with three-step drops and quick passes to try to prevent LSU from bullrushin­g Boeckman every play. RBs: Chris “Beanie” Wells is coming off a monster game (39 carries, 222 yards, two TDs) in a 14-3 win over rival Michigan. He’ll have a hard time running up the gut against Glenn Dorsey and Co. in the heart of the line, so count on Wells getting pitches to try to turn the corner or carrying on occasional misdirecti­ons or traps to make LSU’s speed and aggressive­ness work against it. WRs: The Buckeyes will likely try to stretch the field with a pass to Brian Robiskie early, just to give the Tigers something to think about. After that, they’ll throw 10-yard hooks to Robiskie and the other Brian, Hartline, when the LSU secondary allows them some room to avoid getting beat deep. Line: If LSU outmuscles or speeds past the Buckeyes’ bulky line, as Florida did a year ago, OSU might as well start up the buses for a quick getaway to the airport.

Secondary: LSU’s wideouts are big, all of them weighing at least 200 pounds and with a big height advantage on the Buckeyes, who are quick and athletic but not terribly big. The key at this spot might be SS Kurt Coleman, a vicious hitter who must pick his spots.

Linebacker­s: James Laurinaiti­s will get his share of tackles; it’s what two-time All-Americans do. The key guy here might be Larry Grant, a senior playing his final game.

Line: This could be the final game for DE Vernon Gholston, and may just be a coming-out party for the other DE, Cameron Heyward. The son of the late NFL runner Craig “Ironhead” Heyward will help neutralize LSU RB Jacob Hester on short bursts, plus apply heat from the side on QB Matt Flynn.

Special teams: Ryan Pretorius has been a money kicker, but A.J. Trapasso has yet to have a big game. He will have to improve on that 41yard average to keep the Tigers pinned deep in their territory.

Coach: Even LSU fans are nervous about this comparison, as Les Miles flies by the seat of his pants at times. The usually unflappabl­e Tressel had a meltdown against Florida a year ago, going for it on a desperatio­n fourth-and-1 in the second quarter. That failure led to the landslide.

Bottom line: Forget the “homestate” advantage, the 0-8 record vs. the SEC and the lingering trauma of last year’s beating. Ohio State will make no mistakes, and that’s enough to keep them in this one — right up until LSU blinks.

 ?? MATT SULLIVAN/REUTERS ?? LSU cornerback Jai Eugene (4) does a dance number for his teammates at the Superdome on the weekend.
MATT SULLIVAN/REUTERS LSU cornerback Jai Eugene (4) does a dance number for his teammates at the Superdome on the weekend.

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