Louisiana Superdome. Ohio State vs. Louisiana State. We asked 24 of the finest football minds in captivity who would win. Some are hanging on Bourbon Street, others are watching from afar. Here is what they had to say:
Tony Barnhart, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Because Ohio State backed into the national championship game and because the Buckeyes were crushed (41-14) by Florida in last season's BCS championship, and because the game is being played an hour from LSU's campus, few are giving Jim Tressel's troops a chance. That is a mistake. LSU was ranked No. 1 twice this season only to lose both times. Still, this team found a way to get back into the big game. DT Glenn Dorsey should finally be healthy and will want to go out with a great performance and a national championship. Look for backup QB Ryan Perrilloux to be a factor because of his mobility. After watching LSU all season, I believe the Tigers will win this game. But Ohio State is too well-coached and too motivated after last year's loss to Florida to get blown out. The pick: LSU 24, Ohio State 23. Link: Mr. College Football.
Wendell Barnhouse, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: LSU 24, Ohio State 20. The Buckeyes have had a year to hear how bad they played last year against Florida and that will provide loads of motivation. But the Tigers are healthy now — and a defense with a healthy Glenn Dorsey should be feared. LSU has more playmakers on both sides of the ball. College Football Confidential.
Ron Barr, Sports Byline USA Radio Network: USC 42, LSU and Ohio State together 24. Oh, they can't do that. Too bad because that's the game everyone would like to see. I guess if we have to take second best, then LSU and Ohio State plays to a 2-2 tie and after 27 overtime tries, they flip a coin to pick a winner. The coin, a silver U.S. dollar that's now worth only 67 cents, lands on edge, and everyone goes home mad. Sports Byline USA.
Brian Bennett, Louisville Courier-Journal: Ohio State 28, LSU 24. LSU isn't nearly as good as most people think, and Ohio State isn't nearly as bad. Plus, which coach would you want in a big game: Jim Tressel or Les Miles? Brian Bennett Blog.
Bob Condotta, Seattle Times: Call it LSU 31, Ohio State 21. In a year when nothing went to form, LSU will use its (slightly) better balance and athleticism — as well as a bit of a home field advantage — to rip off that one or two big plays that will make the difference. Of course, then everyone will debate forever who really was the national champ in a year when no one was dominant. LSU will win. I've been more sure of only two other results this bowl season: Florida manhandling Michigan and Oklahoma rolling over West Virginia. Washington Football Blog.
Dennis Dodd, CBS Sports.com: LSU 23, Ohio State 17. They talk funny and eat crustaceans but the LSU crowd will be a huge advantage in the huge Superdome. That, and the fact that LSU's defense has had a month to rest, heal and put out contract hits on the Auburn guy who cut block Glenn Dorsey. Dennis Dodd.
Wayne Drehs, ESPN.com: Ohio State 27, LSU 24. Call me crazy, but in a year where college football fans have come to expect the unexpected, the Buckeyes will write the 2007 season's final chapter. I just don't see Ohio State making the same mistake it made last year, showing up flat and getting run off the field in the title game. Every rep, every day of practice since then has centered on making amends for that disappointment. On Monday I say the Buckeyes do just that. Wayne Drehs.
Chris Dufresne, Los Angeles Times: Ohio State 28, LSU 24. Coming on the heels of my pick of Hawaii over Georgia, which fell only 32 points short! Don't know what I'm thinking here. Maybe I remember 2002 when Miami was such an overwhelming favorite to beat Ohio State for the national title but didn't. Michigan beating Florida this year makes this pick seem less laughable. Ohio State is 0-8 vs. SEC in bowls but don't the Bucks, still embarrassed after last year's BCS blowout, have to win sometime? L.A. Times Sports.
Jim Dunaway, 690 The Sports Animal, Birmingham: I'm in SEC country and I do like LSU to win but this game will be a lot closer than Florida's blowout win last season. I'll enjoy the pounding of Hester and Wells but to me the impact of two defenders will be huge; Ohio State LB James Laurinaitis and LSU LB Ali Highsmith will set the tone. If you saw Auburn at LSU or Florida at LSU earlier this season … that's what we'll see Monday Night. LSU wins, 24-20. Dunaway & Brown Radio Experience.
Bruce Feldman, ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com: LSU, 27-20. The long layoff will help the Tigers who were really banged up down the stretch, especially on D. I do think Beanie Wells will do a little damage early but in the second half the Tigers will take control. Feldman Blog.
J.P. Giglio, Raleigh News & Observer: Motivation is 75% of the bowl games. Just ask Michigan, Missouri, Kansas, Georgia, East Carolina ... you get the picture. After last year's palindromic nightmare, who could be more motivated than Ohio State? The setting works against the Buckeyes but they do have the coaching advantage. Jim Tressel and his staff can't possibly pull another Stoops and be that incompetent on the BCS stage. Can they? Given the pedestrian nature of the first four BCS games, this should be a classic. Overtime has been a problem for LSU. The Ohio State ends its SEC curse and Tressel delivers his second national title in overtime. ACC Now.
Mike Hlas, Cedar Rapids Gazette: LSU 24, Ohio State 20. Let's see. LSU lost at home in November to Arkansas, which then got crushed by Missouri in the Cotton Bowl. Ohio State lost at home in November to Illinois, which then got crushed by USC in the Rose Bowl. These are the two teams playing for the national title? What, Ball State and Rutgers were unavailable because they committed to the International Bowl? The Hlog.
Will Leitch, Deadspin: I think Ohio State is going to win by two touchdowns, and most television sets will be off by the beginning of the second quarter. This has been a very lousy bowl season. Deadspin.
Stewart Mandel, SI.com and Sports Illustrated: LSU 24, Ohio State 21. I really feel like Ohio State is being underestimated — its defense is the real deal, as is Chris Wells. But LSU was the best team I saw all season when healthy, which they finally will be for this game, and should be able to prevail in a low-scoring, defensive-dominated contest. Stewart Mandel.
Brett McMurphy, Tampa Tribune: True, Ohio State is 0-8 against the SEC in bowl games, but this Buckeyes club will look for redemption after last year's BCS flop and the underdog has won five of the last national title deciding games. Remember the Alamo? Jim Tressel sure does. His Ohio State club thumped Les Miles' Okie State club, 33-7, in the 2004 Alamo Bowl. Tressel owns Miles again. Ohio State, 24-17. McMurphy's Blog.
Brian Murphy, KNBR 680 The Sports Leader, San Francisco: LSU 38, Ohio State 13. While some of my wagering friends love an underdog in a big game, I'm of the opinion that playing Akron, Youngstown State, and Massillon High isn't good prep to face Early Doucet and the lads. Given that I work in San Francisco, and given our zoo mishap over the holiday, I'm a little hesitant to endorse any team featuring live tigers on campus, but let's choose talent and speed in this one. Murph & Mac Morning Show.
Joe Ovies, 850 The Buzz, Raleigh: LSU 27, Ohio State 24. Ohio State is the new Florida and LSU is the new Ohio State ... or so we're told. The way people trash Ohio State this year makes one think about last year's trashing of the Gators and the results that followed. While the trend is to pick the Buckeyes (The DVD! 50-plus days to get angry at the pundits!), I'm sticking with LSU. However, this game will be closer than the SEC honks want you to believe. Ultimately, a healthy Tigers defense will be unleashed by a departing Bo Pelini and Les Miles should ditch the strange coaching moves, leading LSU to victory. 850 The Blog.
Chris Plank, Fox Sports Radio and Tulsa's 1430 The Buzz: The Buzz: I've made my bed ... so now I have to sleep in it. I have called for LSU to win big and even though I am incredibly impressed with the Ohio State defense, I'm sticking with LSU big. Tigers 38, Ohio State 10. Plank's Blog.
Jeremie Poplin, 1430 The Buzz in Tulsa: I see a close one down in the Bayou. LSU must have Matt Flynn be more efficient than he has been. Flynn is not the QB that Leak was last year when he was able to pick apart OSU's zone D. Ohio State must find a way to have early success on offense if they want to hang. I am not buying the speed argument between these teams. LSU 27, Ohio State 23. Miles is still crazy! Poplin's Blog.
Michael Rothstein, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: LSU 28, Ohio State 14. With the way this college football season has gone, would a two-loss national champion really surprise anyone? It'd almost be a fitting conclusion although LSU-Ohio State will be the most competitive BCS bowl game. LSU receiver Early Doucet will have a very impressive day and Tigers defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey will solidify his No. 1 draft pick status with a dominant game, holding Chris "Beanie" Wells to under 70 yards. Irish Insights.
Brent Schrotenboer, San Diego Union-Tribune: LSU 30, Ohio State 14. LSU simply is more talented and tested than Ohio State, whose not-so-rigorous preparation for this opponent included a 28-21 loss to Illinois. That's the same Illinois team that was crushed in the Rose Bowl by one of the few teams in the nation with talent comparable to LSU's (USC). And don't forget Ohio State's 20 points scored against Akron, 23 against Purdue and nearly two months of cobweb accumulation since it last played a game. Union-Tribune Sports.
Jon Solomon, Birmingham News: LSU 22, Ohio State 21. Matt Flynn throws three first-half interceptions, two returned for touchdowns, as Ohio State goes up, 21-0. Les Miles is cursed. Nick Saban is hailed. LSU decides to play in the second half. It is the BCS championship, after all. Flynn plays brilliantly after halftime. When LSU scores a touchdown late to pull within 21-20, Miles amazingly goes for two. The first try fails. But Ohio State is whistled for interference in the end zone. With a chance to rethink his decision, Miles again goes for two — and gets it. Saban is cursed. Miles is hailed. Georgia and USC fans put on a full-court press claiming they're the nation's best team. Kansas says what about us with one loss? The BCS tucks itself in good night, smiling all the way to the bank. Solomon's Wisdom.
Andy Staples, SI.com: Winner: LSU. Score: 21-12. Explanation: I really want to pick Ohio State because of the underdog implications. The Buckeyes have dealt with the same kind of negativity Florida used as motivation last year, but picking them for that reason may be overthinking things. LSU is more talented. LSU has had time to get healthy after a pretty brutal end to the season. The Tigers may have trouble scoring against the Buckeyes' defense, but OSU should have more problems scoring against LSU's defense. SI.com.
Chris Vernon, Memphis' Sports Station 730 ESPN: LSU 35, Ohio State 14. LSU gets too much pressure on the QB for Ohio State to be able to be effective offensively. Ohio State struggles against teams with speed. It looked slow last year and will probably look slower this year. The Buckeyes can watch all of the inspirational DVDs they want, it won't make them any faster. The only way LSU loses is if Les Miles has to really coach. More than likely, Miles won't have to do anything and can ride Saban's players to another win (this time a championship). Verno's Blog.