December 31, 2009

Rose Bowl: Ohio State vs. Oregon

MORE: Bowl schedule/results

WHO GETS THE EDGE?

Ohio State rush offense vs. Oregon rush defense: QB Terrelle Pryor and RBs Brandon Saine and Dan Herron give the Buckeyes three good running threats; that trio has combined for 1,959 yards and 18 touchdowns. The Buckeyes really turned it up on the ground in the final five regular-season games, rushing for at least 228 yards in each game and totaling 11 touchdowns. Oregon's run defense improved as the season wore on, though Stanford ran all over the Ducks. Oregon's safeties are active against the run, and you'll see a lot of eight-man fronts for the Ducks.
Edge: Ohio State

ROSE BOWL

Ohio State (10-2)
vs. Oregon (10-2)

WHEN: 4:30 p.m., Friday.
WHERE: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
TV: ABC (Brent Musburger will do play-by-play, with Kirk Herbstreit as the analyst).
THE LINE: Oregon by 4.
RECORDS VS. BOWL TEAMS: Ohio State 5-1, Oregon 6-2.
NCAA SCHEDULE STRENGTH: Ohio State 31st, Oregon 5th.
BCS RANKINGS: Oregon 7th, Ohio State 8th.
OFFICIALS: A crew from the Big 12.
COACHES: Ohio State - Jim Tressel (4-4 in bowls); Oregon - Chip Kelly (first bowl).
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: If you're a Big Ten fan, you'll tune in to see whether Ohio State, the league's standard-bearer, can reverse its recent fortunes and play well against a big-time non-conference opponent. If you dislike the Big Ten, you'll tune in to see whether the league's best team once again comes up short in a big game.
KEY STATS: Oregon is sixth in the nation in rush offense at 236.1 yards per game. Ohio State is fifth in the nation in rush defense at 83.4 yards per game. In addition, these teams had two common opponents, Purdue and USC. Oregon beat both, by a combined 29 points; Ohio State lost to both, by a combined 11 points.
KEEP AN EYE ON: The quarterbacks bear watching. Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor was everybody's high school All-American. Though he was heavily recruited by Oregon, he was considered Ohio State's to lose for a while. But while Pryor possesses all sorts of physical talent, he frequently has struggled in Ohio State's relatively strait-laced offense. Oregon QB Jeremiah Masoli, meanwhile, was an unheralded junior college transfer who burst onto the scene midway through last season and has continued his always-solid, sometimes-spectacular play this season. Both will attempt to hurt the opposing defense with his legs. Who will make more of an impact?
Ohio State pass offense vs. Oregon pass defense: Pryor is a big-time athlete, but he remains a mediocre passer. He had just three 200-yard games this season and threw for fewer than 100 yards four times. WR DeVier Posey is ultra-dangerous, and he could hurt the Ducks if they decide to use a lot of man coverage on him. Oregon's secondary is a good one, though no one stands out as a mega-talent. The Ducks have a productive pass rush, headed by DE Kenny Rowe.
Edge: Oregon

Oregon rush offense vs. Ohio State rush defense: This is the key "battle." Oregon's spread offense is predicated on running the ball effectively. In QB Jeremiah Masoli and TB LaMichael James, the Ducks have two guys who can take it the distance at any time. Masoli doesn't have blazing speed, but he can exploit mismatches. James can run up the middle or take it around the edge. LeGarrette Blount got some work in the regular-season finale against Oregon State, and it will be interesting to see if Ducks coaches call on him. Ohio State has been stout against the run, allowing just four teams to rush for 100 yards. But Oregon's offense is unlike any Ohio State has seen this season. LBs Ross Homan and Brian Rolle have played well, and they'll need to be active to counter Masoli.
Edge: Oregon

Oregon pass offense vs. Ohio State pass defense: The Ducks average just 188.6 passing yards per game, which is 92nd in the nation. But one of every 10 Masoli completions goes for a touchdown, and the Ducks know how to take advantage when opposing defenses load up to shut down the run. TE Ed Dickson is a big-time target, and WR Jeff Maehl is an underrated weapon. Sophomore WR Lavasier Tuinei has come on down the stretch. Ohio State has 23 interceptions and has allowed just 10 TD passes. SS Kurt Coleman has played at an extremely high level.
Edge: Ohio State

Ohio State special teams vs. Oregon special teams: Buckeyes K Devin Barclay is a former pro soccer player. Barclay inherited the job at midseason when Aaron Pettrey was injured, but he doesn't have near the leg that Pettrey possesses. P Jon Thoma doesn't have a booming leg, either, but he's a good directional kicker and 31 of his 55 punts have been fair-caught. Return man Ray Small is out for this game, and that hurts. The punt-coverage unit has been excellent, the kick-coverage unit OK. Oregon K Morgan Flint is 15-of-17 and has made 10 in a row. But his range extends only to about 43 yards. P Jackson Rice is adequate. Backup TB Kenjon Barner is a solid return man, and the Ducks' coverage units have been good.
Edge: Oregon

Ohio State coaching staff vs. Oregon coaching staff: This is the ninth bowl appearance for Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel and the seventh BCS bid in that span. Tressel and his staff frequently are criticized for being too conservative, but the Buckeyes have dominated the Big Ten of late. First-year Oregon coach Chip Kelly deserves credit for keeping his team together after that season-opening nightmare at Boise State. Kelly is a good play-caller with a knack for keeping opposing defenses off-balance. Defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti is known for his aggressive nature, and secondary coach John Neal almost always oversees a ball-hawking unit.
Edge: Even

X-factor: There's a lot more pressure on Ohio State than on Oregon. Ohio State has lost three BCS games in a row and needs to prove it can beat a marquee non-conference foe. Will the Buckeyes play tight against a free-wheeling Oregon bunch in their first Rose Bowl appearance since the 1996 season?

Ohio State will win if: The Buckeyes need to be able to run the ball right at Oregon with Saine and Herron, with some Pryor keepers mixed in. Defensively, it's all about stopping the run. Ohio State's linebackers must play extremely well, and you can expect Coleman to be busy in run support.

Oregon will win if: If Masoli and James are effective, the Ducks will be in good shape. If Masoli is forced to throw, Oregon isn't going to win. But while Ohio State certainly appears to be more physical than the Ducks, Oregon's spread is going to put pressure on Ohio State unlike any offense the Buckeyes have seen this season.

EXPERT PICKS
Olin Buchanan: Oregon 34, Ohio State 31
Tom Dienhart: Oregon 32, Ohio State 28
David Fox: Oregon 31, Ohio State 14
Mike Huguenin: Oregon 27, Ohio State 17
Steve Megargee: Ohio State 21, Oregon 20

Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at mhuguenin@rivals.com.




 

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