The official BON prediciton for Saturday's game is forthcoming, but let's start fanning the flame with five burning questions for the Ohio State game.
1. What's the most important positional battle in Saturday's game? There are several compelling answers to this question - most notably, the intriguing matchup scenario that exists because of Tarrell Brown's suspension. Containing Ted Ginn is incredibly important. Still, there's a more fundamental positional battle that will very much affect the Ginn vs Texas secondary scenario: the Texas defensive line versus the Ohio State offensive line.
The Buckeye offensive line is big, talented, and experienced. They're facing the best D-Line in the country, in this author's opinion. Brian Robison and Tim Crowder are elite ends, and you already know how I feel about Frank Okam. One of the things we'll be watching most closely is how effective nose tackles Derek Lokey and Roy Miller are at eating up blockers in the middle. To the extent that they're successful, the other three linemen on the field will be more effective.
And that's going to be so important - not just in containing the very potent Buckeye running game, but in giving the safeties some breathing room to provide max support in coverage. If the Buckeyes are running the ball effectively, the safeties will be forced to run assist; and that means more isolation for Mr. Ginn. Which we don't want.
2. How will Colt McCoy handle his first big time college football game? He's looked terrific picking on the Longhorns' second team defense and the even less accomplished North Texas Mean Green. But how is he going to fare in the single biggest game to ever grace the 40 Acres? I've peed myself eleven times this week alone, and I won't be anywhere near Seindlein's ass to take a snap. How's McCoy going to handle the circus at DKR on Saturday night? If he's tight, or aiming his throws, or failing to check down receivers, he's making the Buckeyes' jobs on defense that much easier.
3. Who will win the turnover battle? Texas gifted Ohio State with three stupid turnovers in last season's victory. The Horns offense gave the Buckeyes short fields to work from time after time again last season; fortunately, the defense bailed us out until Vince could complete the comeback. This year's Ohio State squad is better on offense; such gifts will turn into more Ohio State points.
On the flip side, it'd be real nice to get a gift or two from Troy Smith and Ohio State. Much like Vince Young before he became an immortal, Troy Smith has a tendency to try to do too much. Part of that is an uberconfidence in his ability to make something happen on every play. Many times, that's a good thing. At times, it means turnovers. Let's hope for some of that on Saturday. If there were one stat that is most likely to push a team over the top in this game, it's this one.
4. WWJCD? What Would Jamaal Charles Do? I remember going on the radio with AOL last October before the OU game and saying, "Mark my words: this is the week that the rest of you get to know Jamaal Charles." One 80 yard touchdown run later, and my prophecy was fulfilled.
Well, this is Part 2 of that story. With the entire college football world watching on Saturday night, Jamaal has a chance to erupt onto the national scene. Right now, he's on the fringe of many observers' radars. A big night Saturday would vault him right into the Heisman mix.
More important that Charles' recognition, though, is his ability to open everything up for McCoy. If Charles is on his game and feeling good, the new Buckeye defenders are going to have that much more trouble stopping the Texas attack. Charles can make defenses pay with the slightest over-pursuit or missed tackle. We need him on his A-game on Saturday. If he is, look out.
5. Who wins the special teams? In a game like this, it's more likely than not to be tight 'til the end. And besides the turnovers we've already discussed, special teams is the area of the game that has the potential to decide the outcome. Will Aaron Ross or Ted Ginn have a big night returning kicks? Will either of the kicking games - both unproven - come through in the clutch? Or disappear in the bright lights? Texas appears to have the edge in this department, but these are things you can't predict. A big play or two on the special teams could be the difference in this game. Let's hope The Posse comes to play.