Thursday, December 31, 2009
Blogger debate: Ohio State vs. Oregon
By Adam Rittenberg and Ted Miller
LOS ANGELES -- Ohio State has waited 13 years. Oregon has waited 15 years. Our wait for the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi is nearly over.
We're only a day away from No. 7 Oregon and No. 8 Ohio State going at it in Pasadena (ABC, 4:30 p.m. ET), and bloggers Ted Miller (Pac-10) and Adam Rittenberg (Big Ten) are ready to break down the matchup.
Oregon Offense vs OSU Defense: Rushing
* Based on percentage
Adam Rittenberg: The Rose Bowl might not be the premier contest in Pasadena this year, but there are still a lot of compelling things about this game. So let's get right to it. Oregon's offense vs. Ohio State's defense is one of the best matchups in all of the bowls. Oregon gashed just about everyone this year, while Ohio State is great at limiting big plays, especially on the ground. How do you see this playing out on Friday?
Ted Miller: Good question, because it always seems the bowl season adds wrinkles to what we saw in the regular season. For one, there's the layoff. Ohio State hasn't played since Nov. 21, Oregon since Dec. 3. How will they react to all that time off? That's a lot of hours for scheming over film. What will Ohio State's defensive coaches come up with to contain the Oregon spread-option? And what have the Oregon coaches anticipated they will face? Ducks coach Chip Kelly always talks about using the first few possessions to measure what the other team intends to do so he can react. Ohio State, however, will have had enough preparation time to study how Kelly reacts to certain schemes. I think that's an advantage for the defense. On the other hand, the Ducks are fast. I keep hearing about sure-tackling in the Big Ten. We'll see. There are more quickly moving targets out West.
Speaking of the Ducks' offense, how about that Terrelle Pryor? He was supposed to be running Oregon's spread-option, but I get the feeling the Ducks feel pretty good they ended up with Jeremiah Masoli. Which Pryor will we see against Oregon? The good one or the bad one?
Will the Buckeyes turn Terrelle Pryor loose in an effort to keep up with the Ducks' offense?
Rittenberg: Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel faces a real dilemma with Pryor in this game. There's one school of thought, to which I happen to subscribe, which says Pryor must be turned loose for Ohio State to put up points and keep pace with Oregon. He has to be a difference-maker for the Buckeyes, not just a game manager. But Ohio State won its final five games with Pryor basically in a no-mistakes type of role. The run game and the offensive line improved, and Tressel made sure Pryor wouldn't implode like he did in the loss to Purdue (four turnovers). Pryor is a bit banged up, dealing with a partial tear in his left PCL as well as a nagging ankle injury. But because this is the last game of the year, Ohio State should be more willing to turn him loose as a runner. I still believe this guy should be running the football 20 to 25 times a game. Few teams can consistently bring him down around the edges.
Let's get back to the UO offense for a second. LeGarrette Blount resurfaced briefly against Oregon State. How much do we see of him in this game, or will it remain the Jeremiah Masoli/LaMichael James show?
Miller: Good question. Perhaps Kelly & Co. used their extra prep time to devise some more packages for Blount. Still, my guess is Blount will be the power counterpunch to James, whose speed and big-play ability are hard to take off the field. James is clearly the lead guy and will carry the load early. If the Buckeyes contain him, Kelly then would go with Blount and see if the power element boosts the cause. If James thrives, my guess is Kelly will ride him. Also, Blount could be the guy in short yardage or near the goal line.
This is hardly a new question because of the Big Ten's -- and Ohio State's -- recent struggles in big games, but what's the attitude there? Is there a sense that because the Buckeyes aren't playing Texas, USC or the SEC champ that there's more hope for a victory? Is there respect for Oregon? The mental side seems so important for the Buckeyes.
LeGarrette Blount's return at the end of the season bolsters Oregon's rushing attack.
Rittenberg: Ohio State certainly respects Oregon, especially Masoli, James, Blount and the rest of the offense. Oregon has felt like the more confident team this week, but Ohio State is typically a serious, businesslike group, which trickles down from Jim Tressel. The Buckeyes definitely aren't overconfident, and they certainly understand the urgency for this game. Terrelle Pryor called it a must-win on Monday, and it's hard to argue with him. The Rose Bowl is the Big Ten's signature game and Ohio State is the Big Ten's signature program, and something has got to change for this league in this game. The Buckeyes' mental approach will be sound. Whether they can physically handle Oregon for 60 minutes is up for debate.
OK, Mr. Miller, prediction time. You first. What happens Friday?
Miller: I have to go first? D'oh.
The Big Ten has lost how many consecutive BCS bowl games? Ohio State has fallen in how many consecutive big games? The Big Ten has taken how much crud from the rest of the nation? Answer: A lot. And, to me, too much.
Oregon is faster than Ohio State. The Ducks have a better quarterback who's a proven clutch performer. There are many reasons to pick the Ducks.
But I won't. Oregon is a young team that is a year away -- only four starters are seniors.
Why am I picking Ohio State 28-24? One unscientific reason: I think the Buckeyes are due. Period.
Rittenberg: Wow! Can't say I saw that prediction coming, especially after the Pac-10's strong performance against the Big Ten this fall. The Big Ten's big-game slide has to end sometime, and Friday could be the day.
I've always said it's unfair to group all three of Ohio State's BCS bowl losses together because the Buckeyes really played a good game last year against Texas. Should have won, but got burned on a blitz in the end. I don't think either team runs away with the Rose Bowl, but Oregon is just so dangerous and diverse on offense. Ohio State rarely allows big plays, especially on the ground, but you have to figure James or Masoli will break free once or twice.
While the Buckeyes got better at running back and offensive line as the season went along, I don't have enough confidence in Pryor -- or Tressel, for that matter -- to pick Ohio State in this game. Unless we see a different offense than the one that usually showed up this fall, the Buckeyes fall short. The Pac-10 blogger goes with the Big Ten, and the Big Ten blogger will go with the Pac-10 (and they call us homers, sheesh).