No overconfidence here

OSU FootballIf you haven’t heard, Florida is supposed to win on Monday.

Have you got that yet? Flip on a BCS (or any other bowl) game during halftime, or visit internet articles and forums, and you’ll hear prognosticators running through the same drill:

  • Florida will win because OSU can’t handle the Gators’ speed
  • Florida will win because they are the equivalent of the underdog 2002 OSU Buckeyes squad
  • Florida will win because of the superiority of the SEC
  • Florida will win because Heisman winners rarely perform well in bowl games
  • Florida will win because it has the best defense that OSU has ever seen
  • Florida will win because OSU had 51 days off
  • Florida will win because everyone is assuming OSU will win

Wait, what?!? So… the media wants it both ways? They all want to pick Florida to win, but justify it by saying that there’s an “assumption” that OSU will dominate the Gators? Oxymoronic, if you ask me.

Let’s do the rundown.

Speed
…is present in both teams. Florida has some turf burners, that’s for sure. But OSU’s known for its uncanny speed, too; for example, the combined speed of G2, both of which are on the field at the same time. Running a 4.3 is running a 4.3, whether you’re from Cleveland or Florida.

Underdog status
…doesn’t exist here for either team. This game is not a mirror image of the 2002 championship game, mostly because 2006 OSU isn’t anywhere near as dominant, overconfident, and cocky as the 2002 Hurricanes were. That game truly was David vs. Goliath. Coker’s boys trickled into Arizona, having won about three dozen straight games, with a very laissez faire attitude, guaranteeing victory and mocking the pitiful Buckeyes. No way Tressel allows his players to think or behave that way. Trust us: it’s been all business for six weeks straight. Also, the Buckeyes entered that game 13-0; while Florida has a loss.

And this year, Florida is a powerhouse; no question about it. Both teams match up against one another very, very well. Specifically, both teams happen to be strong in areas in which the other is weak. This indicates that the game might be a high-scoring affair. For instance, OSU’s defense has had difficulty with mobile quarterbacks and the spread option this year.

There are absolutely no similarities between these teams and the teams from the 2002 game, no matter how much some Gator fans want to play the underdog role.

SEC is better!!
Nope. Where did this argument come from, anyway? From a bunch of ten-year-old boys on a schoolbus? The best teams of the major conferences are always pretty similar in strength. Parity is too widespread nowadays, and most big programs use similar practicing and conditioning techniques.

At any rate, the SEC is 0-3 against Big 10 this season. The Big 10’s #3 & #4 beat the SEC’s #3 & #4 in last week’s bowl games. Head to head, that’s pretty telling, but I still maintain that you can’t use the “conference is better than yours” argument to predict victory or defeat. Not when you give two great teams a month to get ready for each other.

Heisman winners underachieve in bowl games
The logic goes like this: Because the Heisman winner is running around to awards ceremonies, staying in hotels while his teammates practice without him, the team’s performance suffers. Maybe so, but as was reported earlier this week (no link yet), Smith has only missed one day of practice. And there’s no way Tressel would keep Smith off the practice field; it’s the only way his first team defense can get ready for Leak & Tebow.

OSU hasn’t seen a defense like Florida’s
Now we can get into some real analysis.

OSU’s offense has played against the following great defenses:

    Michigan (1st in rushing defense, 8th in scoring, 9th against first downs), Texas (2nd against the rush, 16th against first downs), and Penn State (10th against the rush, 11th in scoring).

Against those three teams, OSU racked up 1,104 yards of offense and 11 touchdowns. And this includes its worst-of-the-year performance against Penn State during a heavy downpour that slowed both offenses. Including that game, OSU’s offense averaged 368 yards in those contests; without it, 425 yards. Florida’s defense (statistically) matches up relatively close to these three teams.

Let’s also consider individual talent. OSU’s offense has played against the following defensive superstars:

    All three finalists of the Bednarik Award (Posluszny, Connor, Woodley); two finalists of the Jim Thorpe Award (Leon Hall, Aaron Ross); one finalist of the Butkus Award (Posluszny); three finalists of the Lombardi Award (Posluszny, Woodley, Blalock); and one finalist of the Nagurski Trophy (Hall).

After Monday’s game, OSU will add Reggie Nelson to that list. And this doesn’t count the finalists/winners on OSU’s team (Pitcock, Laurinaitis, Smith, et. al) that the OSU offense practices against every day.

Ohio State had a crippling 51-day layoff
This argument might have a smidge of meat to it. However, I’m not thinking that any “rust” OSU might have come Monday is going to be enough to ensure a Florida victory, for two reasons:

(1) Tressel. He has repeatedly shown time and time again an ability to get a team ready for a big game. OSU teams are never over- or under-prepared. It’s enough of a track record to have confidence, at any rate. Besides, earlier this year there was a nine-month layoff between the Notre Dame and Northern Illinois games, and the OSU offense picked right up where it left off in January.

(2) When people speak of “rust,” they actually mean “timing,” which is more important in the rushing game than the passing. Expect Tressel, like he has all season long, to use the pass to set up the rush.

Final Thoughts
The OSU squad, full of veterans, is not as likely to be nervous or intimidated at the colossal hype & emotion of the game. This is the third #1 vs. #2 game OSU has been in this year alone.

Florida has an impressive defense, but it will not stop OSU from putting up a significant amount of points on the board. Reggie Nelson cannot cover Ginn, Gonzo, Hall, Robiskie, Hartline, Small, Pittman, Wells, Nichol, and Ballard, seven or eight of which are on the field for every play. (And that doesn’t count Troy Smith’s own feet, either). OSU will score some points.

The “unknown” of the game is how well Florida’s offense and OSU’s defense match up. Turnovers will be a huge factor… and I think the game’s outcome could hinge on them. Florida is 78th overall in throwing interceptions, and OSU is tied for second in the nation for most interceptions gained.

Therefore, whether or not the Gators earn a second national title will totally depend on whether or not Chris Leak and Tim Tebow can (1) avoid mistakes and (2) outscore Troy Smith and his countless offensive weapons. Period.

Enough for now! We’ll be doing our predictions on Monday’s Open Thread, so check back then. In the meantime, you might find it interesting to peruse Vegas’ considerations on the teams’ trends going into the game.

Comments

  1. Michigan Dave says

    An OSU win would be great for the big ten. You have a good analysis, but what about turnovers? Any time you are -3 in turnovers, you are lucky if you win. Will the layoff affect the execution in the shotgun? I don’t know if OSU can have turnovers like that again and win the NC. If the buckeyes don’t turn the ball over they should win easily.

  2. Mich Dave – you are right, there’s no elite team that could get as many TOs as UM did and not win… that’s why OSU will have to not make the mistakes it made against UM (which were aberrations, as far as the season is concerned). If they give Florida three TOs, then OSU will probably lose.

    I seriously doubt the layoff will affect the center/QB exchange, though. Datish has been perfect all year, except for the UM game (which again, was odd), and Smith is pretty good at not throwing INTs. Most of OSU’s turnovers for the year came from Beanie Wells, so the question is whether or not he’s still got the butterfingers. Hard to predict. :-/

  3. Michigan Dave says

    Yeah. The layoff shouldn’t affect the exchange and Tressel is unlikely to go into “cram it down their throats” mode like he did at Illinois.

    The game is OSU’s to win or lose. This one “should” be over at halftime unless OSU turns the ball over. Florida is definitely not an “elite” team. They lost by 10 to Auburn and had the execution not been so horrible by South Carolina, they would have dropped that game too. Their redzone offense is impotent and they can’t kick a field goal much beyond extra point range. Against this years OSU defense they shouldn’t get to 20 points without help. (Last year’s OSU defense would have had an honest chance at pitching a shutout.)

    The Fla defense is good, but Troy Smith is a slice and dice master. It’s a beatdown unless the Buckeyes play Santa.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Are you even looking for analysis of this game? You could read ours, of course. The sportsMonkey did a great job on that. We’ve linked to Buckeye Planet and The O-Zone all year, so there’s no need to stop now. Always enlightening stuff there. Most bloggers have theirs up, which are always worth a read. You can check out Sean’s, Buckeye Banter’s, Jeff’s, Keith’s, Brian’s, and Pfef’s. Lots of good stuff to read. You won’t be doing anything else today, will you? I’ll be the first to admit, though, I’ve read enough analysis to make one’s eyes bleed. It’s all good stuff, believe me, but I’m through. I just want the game to be here, like now! […]

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