Wednesday, September 7
ATL Roundtable: Gameday Prediction
Today's Topic: Who will win the Texas-Ohio State game?
It just doesn’t get any better than this. The two biggest universities in the country, both rife in tradition and success on the field, with rabid, national followings, squaring up to do battle… in the second week of the year. First things first. Give credit to Tressel and Brown—you just don’t see non-conference matchups like this any more. That both teams are strong this year—potential national title contenders, even—just adds to the drama. It’s a primetime matchup, under the lights, in front of 100,000 fans. It just doesn’t get any more exciting than this in September.
It’s hard to imagine either team racking up a lot of points in this one. Both teams feature very talented defenses and have limited passing games. That’s a matchup that screams for a ball-control, who can run it better and make fewer mistakes kind of game. It also means that special teams become more important.
This is the one aspect of the game that scares me and that, if Texas doesn’t play well in, could spell a loss. Memories of the Wolverine kick off returns in the Rose Bowl must still give Mack Brown nightmares, and Ohio State has two of the best return men in all of college football. If Texas gives up big yards on punts and kickoffs, it’s going to be a huge advantage for Ohio State. If Ginn or Holmes actually breaks a big one for a score, it might be the kind of big play that keys a win.
Throw in the fact that Richmond McGee missed three extra points on Saturday and it’s a cause for grave concern. It concerns me so much that I’ll put it this way: if Texas has a poor special teams day, they’re going to lose. I really think it’s that important.
But I’ll go out on a limb here, take Mack at his word, and assume that Texas has “gotten things worked out” on that end. If that’s the case, I think we’re a more complete team. I think our offense is going to put up 20-30 points, and I think our defense can more than hold its own. If Texas eliminates the big play, they’ll win by 10 or more. If not, it’ll be close. The Horns win this one, on the road in Columbus, 27-17.
I haven’t anticipated a regular season non conference UT football game this much since Notre Dame visited Austin in 1996. In the college football age of weak non conference home games against non BCS conference folks, fans rarely get to see a top 5 match up like this one. I simply can’t wait.
I am going to agree with Bean: both defenses are much better than their offensive counterparts. Ohio State is blessed with the best LBs in the country and will probably have one of the best overall defenses as well. Don’t expect 400+ rushing yards on Saturday night. Even with Young, Taylor, S. Young, and J. Charles, Texas is still better on the defense side of the field. We were better last year on defense, too. I expect Wright and company to be able to run confusing defense schemes crafted by our new Defensive Coordinator to thoroughly frustrate whoever lines up at QB for the Buckeyes.
Special teams is a concern in all areas. I heard someone say on the radio that if Mike Nugent, former kicker, were still a Buckeye, he would go with Ohio St. I would agree. I went to the Alamo Bowl last year and watched Ohio State dominate Oklahoma State in all areas including special teams. Nugent was the most impressive player on the field. But he is gone. McGee looked awful on Saturday night. He looked scared and slow. Yeah, our blocking up front on extra points failed but he also took an eternity to kick the ball. That cannot and will not happen this Saturday.
I think Ohio State pressures VY into multiple mistakes in the passing game. Our defense holds tough and we have just enough success on the ground. Look for tons of defensive stops in this UT victory 13-10 (extra points 1/1).
My anticipation for this game also reminds me of Texas-Notre Dame, but I’m thinking about the 1995 game. I had to do some research, but here’s a link (http://www.usatoday.com/sports/scores95/95266/95266332.htm) to the box score and recap of that game, which Notre Dame won, 55-27, in South Bend.
The score was much closer for most of the game, as Texas led 20-19 in the third quarter before Notre Dame pulled away. I remember that gave vividly because I wanted Texas to win so desperately, but deep inside I knew we wouldn’t, even when we were ahead. It just seemed like Notre Dame was out of our league, and it was only a matter of time until they put us in our place.
I am a little ashamed to admit this, but I have the same feeling about this game. I know we are ranked #2, but oddsmakers have Ohio State at a 1 to 1.5 point favorite as of Wednesday morning, and I am still not sure how we achieved out #2 ranking. Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled we are ranked where we are, but it doesn’t make me any more confident in our abilities to beat other top-ranked teams.
I think we are probably better that Ohio State, and on a neutral site I’d be much more inclined to pick Texas. However, they have three things going for them that we don’t:
Home field. Playing at the Horseshoe is no joke. Ohio State is 26-3 at home under Jim Tressel.
Confidence. Ohio State won the national championship three years ago. I know most of their players weren’t on that team, but they were recruited during that time and they have an expectation of winning, something I am not sure Texas has yet. We think we can win, but I don’t know if players expect to win. I sure don’t know any fans who expect a victory as much as they think we can win.
Coaching. Jim Tressel vs. Mack Brown. You all know as well as I do that Mack plays things close to the vest in big games, and this is a very big game. I am afraid Mack will not trust our freshmen running backs in such a big game, and our receiving corps is almost equally inexperienced. Considering the fact that our defense is so strong, I fully expect Mack to try and win a close, low-scoring game.
Andrew’s prediction of 13-10 is a good one, and one I think the Texas coaching staff is probably shooting for. The problem is I think will come in the fourth quarter, and when plays have to be made, Ohio State will make them and we won’t. The game will be close and something bad will happen to put it out of reach for Texas, be it a long special teams return by Ohio State, a bad call that they get, or a Vince turnover at the worst possible time. And, if the game does come down to a kick, I have almost zero confidence in our ability to make a field goal to win the game. I sure hope I am wrong.
Pick: Ohio State 27, Texas 17.