2009 Fiesta Bowl Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 12/26/2008
No. 3 Texas vs. No. 10 Ohio State
Conference Matchup: Big 12 vs. Big 10
Date: 8 p.m., Monday, Jan. 5
Location: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
Odds: Texas -8.0; Total 53.0
One team wants to prove that it's the best in the country and worthy of being a national champion. The other has repeatedly proven that it's not.
Texas enters this BCS Bowl game as a team scorned. By now you know the story - and if you don't, um, don't bet on this game - of how Texas feels it should be playing Florida for a championship. But they will settle for giving Ohio State yet another January ass-kicking in front of a live studio audience. The Longhorns are going to rout the Buckeyes and again throw an apparent asterisk atop the BCS system by openly challenging the legitimacy of whomever is crowned champion. Especially if it's Oklahoma.
We know Texas is motivated. We know Texas is allegedly more skilled. We know that Ohio State has been humiliated in the BCS title game each of the past two years and how it was noncompetitive against USC earlier this year. So we know that Colt McCoy and Co. are going to win big, right? But here's the problem with all of this - usually when 95 percent of people expect one thing to happen in sports, the other side is usually a solid wager.
It just seems TOO obvious, doesn't it? It seems too easy to say that Texas is going to show up and run roughshod over the defenseless Buckeyes. But after seeing how Ohio State has rolled over against top-flight competition over the last several seasons how could we possibly lay any coin on them showing up in this one?
Well, here are five reasons why Ohio State could win (or at least cover the spread) against Texas:1. Terrell Pryor
The kid really is a freak of nature and a star waiting to happen. And you can never be sure when a guy like that is going to have a coming out party. When he gets moving he covers roughly 18 yards with each stride and the extra six weeks of bowl practice is really going to be crucial to his development as a thrower. The Big 12 has the best quarterbacks in the country, but Texas hasn't seen anyone like Pryor and he is the type of X-Factor that can negate any game plan.
2. Jim Tressel has already proven he can beat Mack Brown
These two teams are only a year removed from a home-and-home series that covered 2005 and 2006. Ohio State lost by just three points to Vince Young-led Texas in 2005 and actually beat the Longhorns at Texas by 17 points in 2006. So these two programs have recently tussled and I would say that Jim Tressel's clubs have more than held their own.
3. Letdown Factor
You really have to wonder about Texas' focus in this one. In their mind they should have been selected over their hated rival, Oklahoma, to play for the BCS championship. So over the month of December have they spent more time being excited and answering questions about Ohio State, or more time being angry and answering questions about Oklahoma? Just because the public assumes Texas has "motivation" to win this game big, that doesn't make it reality.
4. Layoff Factor
I always felt that one of the biggest things working against Ohio State in the last two title games was that each year there was nearly 50 days in between when they ended their regular season and when they played their bowl game. That is a lifetime in between games, whereas the SEC teams were only a few weeks removed from playing meaningful, high-level football.
This year that isn't as much of an issue. Ohio State's last game was played on Nov. 22 and they will have 43 days in between games. But Texas is in the same boat. Their last game was on Nov. 27 and they'll have been off for 38 days. Compare that to if Ohio State had been playing an SEC team with just a 29-day layoff and that makes a big difference.
5. Ohio State might not be that bad
The Buckeyes were actually peaking toward the end of the year. After that USC debacle they actually won eight of their last nine games, with seven of the wins coming by double-digits and the only loss a touchdown-defeat at the hands of Penn State. During that stretch the Buckeyes went 6-1 straight-up and 4-3 against the spread versus bowl teams.
Also, you may recall that they played USC on the road, whereas this game is on a neutral field. They also faced the Trojans without Beanie Wells, their best offensive player. That Trojans game ended 35-3 but definitely was not as lopsided as the score indicates. Ohio State was only outgained by 140 yards in that tilt (akin to about 17 points difference, not 32), they had a key early touchdown called back due to holding, and they were down just 14-3 headed to halftime before an INT returned for a touchdown opened the floodgates.