All the talk, hype and partying is over. OK, the partying never ceases on Bourbon Street, but as far as Ohio State and LSU are concerned, it is time to play a football game.
All the talk, hype and partying is over.
OK, the partying never ceases on Bourbon Street, but as far as Ohio State and LSU are concerned, it is time to play a football game.
One of the most unpredictable college football seasons in history will come to an end tonight when the Buckeyes and Tigers decide just who is the best team in college football, and still, there will be some debate. OSU and LSU play the season’s final game tonight in the Superdome, both teams hoping to claim their second BCS national title.
“I couldn’t think of a better way to end the college season than No. 1 playing No. 2 for the right to be No. 1,” LSU Head Coach Les Miles said.
Ohio State is a 4-point underdog despite being the No. 1 team. It’s a position the Buckeyes have played up, and one that Miles has tried to reverse.
“I can’t imagine that they feel disrespected,” Miles said. “They’re playing in the finest college football game in the country. ... They’re the No. 1 team. Who is disrespecting them? ... If they need that, that’s fine. We don’t see them that way. We respect their abilities and they’re going to get our finest effort.”
Miles, the intense, expressive LSU head coach, said his team felt trapped, pent-up and held hostage waiting more than a month to play this game. Both teams have spent the last five days talking the talk and exchanging pleasantries in passing.
“You wish you could snap your fingers and be out there at kickoff, but that’s not the way it is,” Buckeye Head Coach Jim Tressel said. “... I know they’re anxious. If they feel pent up now, just wait until you see how they feel (today) because it’s a long day when you don’t play until (8 p.m.).”
Whether the Buckeyes are successful or not against LSU’s defense will depend on the play of quarterback Todd Boeckman. He hasn’t been the same first-year starter who did little wrong since Boeckman led the Buckeyes to a win on the road at Penn State.
That night, in a hostile environment that will only scratch the surface of what he’ll face tonight, Boeckman threw for 253 yards. He completed 19-of-26 passes, three touchdowns and an interception.
That was his most efficient game of the season against a Big Ten team.
For Boeckman to be that guy again, his offensive line will have to protect him. Troy Smith didn’t have that luxury a year ago and Florida’s defensive front had its way with OSU’s offensive lineman.
“The most important thing to give a quarterback a chance to succeed is protection,” Tressel said. “That’s the key. If you look at any game where a guy makes poor decisions, sometimes it’s because he was rushed. Maybe there was someone in his face. Maybe he didn’t have that extra instant to make the best decision.”
LSU’s defense has 32 sacks, not exactly eye-popping compared to OSU’s 42 sacks. The Buckeye offensive line has allowed just 14 sacks.
Tressel, who said he had confidence in Boeckman, has juggled his lineup ever so slightly. Antonio Henton is the backup quarterback after serving a seven-game suspension for a minor misdemeanor solicitation charge. Henton gives Tressel more athleticism at QB if Boeckman isn’t getting pass protection.
“We saw all of his early tape and we kind of got a decent feel for his abilities,” Miles said. “I think we have a nice plan ready to go once he steps on the field at the opponent’s request.”
How Boeckman handles this stage and pressure remains to be seen.
“I’m confident how he’ll react ... but I don’t know anything for sure,” Tressel said. “I don’t know how I’ll react. It’s so exciting and it really takes a real good performance to really be on top of every single thing at every moment in a neat environment.”
While Boeckman is a key because he’ll need to convert crucial third-and-long passes, the gameplan will be in Beanie Wells’ lap. Ohio State’s bruising tailback, Tressel has said, has a chance to leave OSU as one of the best backs the school has produced. That legend and lore will be written or scrapped tonight.
Wells brings the physical presence the Buckeyes will need against All-American defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey.
Despite how the Buckeyes feel portrayed, LSU wants the underdog tag. Miles will show his players the movie “300” today. The movie’s plot is how King Leonida took a fighting force of 300 men into the Battle of Thermopylae to fight the Persian army, which was over a million strong. It’s a plot, given the game is in LSU’s backyard, that seems more fitting to Ohio State.
“I don’t know what ‘300’ is,’” Tressel said, “I’m not a real movie guy. The last movie I went to was Jaws ... one. I don’t know what ‘300’ is. Watching movies and relaxing, that kind of thing, because you do feel pent up and you do feel like, ‘My gosh is this ever going to arrive?’ That’s a great thing.”
Reach Repository sports writer Todd Porter at (330) 580-8340 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org