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Texas-Ohio State Breakdown

This is one of those times that I'm wishing I weren't swamped with trying to finish all my work, as I can't offer a full, proper rebuttal, but CFR has a Texas-Ohio State breakdown up that deserves commentary.

On the whole, it's a fine piece of work, and he notes - mostly correctly - each team's strengths and weaknesses.  I'll let you read it yourself, but here's an abbreviated version of the problems in it.

*The Texas `strategy' that he cites, the decision to "gamble that its opponent would do some stupid things and give them a shot," is inaccurate. In particular, this doesn't apply to the Rose Bowl, where Texas' strategy simply was "let's outscore them." By the end of the 2005 season, Texas' coaches felt that USC (well, anyone, really) couldn't stop the zone read option and Vince Young. Here's a fun fact for you: Texas had 76 offensive plays in the Rose Bowl. On 75 plays, they ran the exact same formation. The idea was simple: run the same formation to set up Young, the receivers, and the line to make the same reads every time.

USC and Pete Carroll, meanwhile, threw the book at Young and Texas in what was a masterful defensive gameplan. Carroll tried everything under the sun, blitzing to every gap, and trying three, four, five, and, yes, SIX, down linemen to try to stop Young. USC couldn't. (Now, Texas couldn't stop USC's attack either. But the gameplan wasn't to sit around and wait for the opponent to screw up. It would only be fair for CFR to also note that Texas made two huge blunders - fumbling USC's first punt to set up an easy touchdown, and going for it on 4th and 1 on the next series. Incidentally, when USC stuffed Texas on that 4th and 1... that was the one play Texas didn't run the shotgun spread formation. They ran a straight I-formation.)

*The Ohio State game last year was a war of attrition, and CFR's right to think this year may hold something similar. However, his conclusion that Ohio State is better set up to stuff the run seems misguided. For one thing, Texas' defensive line this year will be better than last year's. Rod Wright was ineffective against Ohio State. Frank Okam will not be. In fact, the Texas D-line as a whole is the best line Texas has ever had in the Mack Brown era. Ohio State, meanwhile, must replace the three headed linebacking monster. Texas actually upgrades with the departure of Aaron Harris, who was overrated. By any reasonable grading, the Texas front seven - certainly in week two of the 2006 season - will be better than Ohio State's.

*I also hesitate to write off Texas' ability to run between the tackles. Jamaal Charles is blazing fast, but he's not a pure corner runner. His 80 yard touchdown against Oklahoma, as one example, went straight up the middle. He hits running lanes as well as any young tailback I've seen. Melton, disappointing last year, has slimmed to 260 pounds and is dazzling scouts and coaches in practice. Selvin Young, still rehabbing at this time last year, appears to be all the way back. With a well-above average offensive line returning, I think CFR's skepticism about Texas' running ability is premature.

*I do think that the game might unfold similarly to how CFR predicts, but the facts he uses to support his claim aren't the ones I'd cite. I think Ohio State's biggest advantage is the ability of Smith to (somewhat, anyway) neutralize Texas' penetrating defense with his legs, buying time for receivers and limiting how aggressive Texas can be. On the other side, the pressure surrounding the two young QBs for Texas neutralizes some of the weaknesses we'll see in Ohio State's defense early in the year. Given that, it's certainly possible that Ohio State will leave Austin with a win. It might not even be an upset. Nonetheless, Texas holds some very real, very important advantages in this game, and CFR doesn't quite do them justice.

In any case, head on over and have a read for yourself. It's a good piece.