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My view on Ohio State vs. Florida
Here's my unbiased look at the matchup between Florida and Ohio State. I'm not a fan of either team. True, I want Florida to win, but I tend to root for the underdog in any situation. If I wasn't a Canes fan, I would've been behind Ohio State in the '02 Fiesta Bowl 100%. There is no homerism here.
First, let's look at the offenses of both of these teams, and how they compare.
QB: OSU is lead by likely Heisman winner Troy Smith. I like Smith a lot. He's very cool under pressure. He doesn't make mistakes often, but that doesn't mean he NEVER makes mistakes, so don't think that. Rarely, he thinks he can do it all on one play and will scramble the wrong way, or force a ball where it shouldn't...BUT...those plays are few and far between, and have decreased more and more as the season has progressed. He's truly maturing as a QB before our eyes.
RB: Antonio Pittman has secretly put together a very good season for Ohio State. Honestly he's nothing spectacular, but he's very consistent. His relief, freshman sensation Chris Wells, is a big play guy, and Florida shouldn't rest on their laurels when he enters the game. The key to Ohio State's success will be running the ball on Florida's defense to establish a deep passing game, simple as that.
WR: You got the extremely speedy Ted Ginn and the extremely consistent Anthony Gonzalez. Gonzalez underneath will open up Ginn down the field--or at least that's the gameplan. We'll see how they matchup against UF's secondary. Brian Robiskie is another big target for Troy Smith. Bottomline: it'll be a great receiving corps versus a great secondary.
OL: If there were a "weak" part of this offense, it'd be the o-line, but that's really more a credit to the rest of the offense and how good they are. It's not that these guys are "weak;" far from it. It's just that they will have lapses of bad blocking. Smith has been bullrushed more times than not; certainly more than you'd expect from the #1 team in the country (and when you compare them to the Nat'l Champs of recent years, it's not even close). But that's why Smith is so good. But back to the line: C Doug Datish has played great in replacing Nick Mangold, and will control the line of scrimmage.
Overall: Ohio State's offense is very balanced and can kill you in many ways. However, I don't see too many quick strike scoring drives here; Florida's defense is just too good to allow that. Expect slow, methodical movement of the chains. They're pretty straightforward with their gameplan. Run the ball well and pass the ball well.
QB: We have a nice story here with Chris Leak, starting in a national championship game despite a lot of groans from UF fans over the years. But nice story aside, Leak has his hands full. I'm not a huge fan of his overall game--far from it. However, I will say that when the play is there to make, he will make it. Meaning, when everything is going well, he's one of the better QB's in the country. Unfortunately, you can't expect things to be all warm and cozy all the time, especially not against a defense like Ohio State's. Leak will have to depend on the rest of his teammates to do their jobs so he can look good. And while that may be true for ANY QB, it's especially true for Leak. Also, there's a misconception that Leak is immobile. Not true. He's made some fine plays with his feet this year, and throws a nice ball out of the pocket on rollouts and such. When Chris Leak is out of the game, you'll see Tim Tebow, the freshman sensation that's sweeping...Gainesville. When Tebow is in the game, he's primarily a power-runner, but Urban Meyer has let him pass several times, and generally, it works. Either way, Ohio State shouldn't expect to have it easy with Tebow in the game.
RB: In Urban Meyer's offense, there are a lot of RB options. In fact, 14 different plays have run the ball this year, in one form or another. That's pretty ridiculous. Due to the nature of the offense, it's really hard to key in on one guy to stop the run. DeShawn Wynn is the "main" guy, but freshman freak Percy Harvin will see plenty of touches, as will Tim Tebow of course, and Kestahn Moore, a solid backup to Wynn. There won't be too many runs out of a traditional pro-set, so OSU will have their hands full.
WR: The strength of this offense is the receiving corps. And OSU's secondary just so happens to be their weak point. Very young, very deep, very fast...very dangerous. I think Urban Meyer will rely on a lot of short passes and YAC here, like usual. Dallas Baker and Andre Caldwell are the experienced guys here, and they can do it all. The aformentioned Percy Harvin will also play a huge part. Also, there's going to be a lot of reverses and end-arounds and what have you. It'll be key to see if OSU can commit to their assignments here.
OL: Much like Ohio State, UF's offensive line isn't as strong as one would expect on a top team in the country. That being said, they've played very well this year despite some big preseason injuries. On short yardage downs especially, they get a lot of push. However, one of the reason Chris Leak (and Tebow for that matter) roll out a lot is because of the vulnerability up front. And unfortunately for UF, Ohio State has a very good front 4. Not as good as a team like LSU, but it's still a huge matchup for Florida.
Overall: This offense couldn't be more different than Ohio State's. And, OSU hasn't faced an offense quite like this yet, so that's a big advantage for UF. Another advantage is that while OSU is very good on defense, UF HAS faced better teams on D. All part of the advantages to playing in the SEC. If Chris Leak limits his mistakes, Florida could put up a lot of points on OSU.
DL: Without a doubt, the front 4 for Ohio State is the biggest reason for OSU's defensive success. Especially the interior, where seniors Quinn Pitcokk and David Patterson control the line of scrimmage. However, since UF doesn't run the ball between the tackles much in a traditonal sense, they may not be as impactful as they were the rest of the season. Still, this unit can force Leak to move around and throw passes he shouldn't, and that more than anything could be the key to victory.
LB: They get a lot of hype, especially James Laurinaitis, and they deserve it for the most part. They're not nearly as battle-tested as last year's group, but they're just as talented. This is where I think Florida's usage of misdirection and other "gadget" plays comes up big; will these "young" guys (and by young I speak more to their playing time than actual age) stay home and on their man? We'll see. One thing's for sure: with the guys up front doing their job, it'll make things a lot easier for Laurinaitis and crew.
Secondary: A corner corps that consists of 3 freshmen and a senior. Antonio Smith, the lone senior, is 5'9 and will most likley match up with 6'3 Dallas Baker, a mismatch in UF's favor. That's where the safety play becomes big. And again, we have to speak to the youth of the safety group. Yes, they're good, but they can make mistakes. And Urban Meyer loves to take advantage of those mistakes. These guys have to be on top of their game, and with well over a month to prepare, I expect them to play well.
Overall: A unit that was supposed to be devastated by graduation has exceeded everyone's expectations. It all starts up front though, and if Ohio State can dominate the line of scrimmage, the rest of the defense will fall into place, and UF won't have much of a chance offensively.
DL: Despite injuries and suspensions throughout the year, this d-line has proven to be one of the best in the nation. Not as thick in the middle as some other lines, but they can still stop the run with the best of them. There isn't much in the way of depth however, and that could play a factor late in the game if Ohio State has a lead. The key to this unit's sucess will be to put heavy pressure on Smith early.
LB: Very experienced and VERY good linebackers here with Crum, Everett and Siler. Reminds me kinda of last year's OSU linebackers. They're really the heart and soul of this defense. They get to the ball as well as anyone in the country. I really don't expect that they should have a problem against the running game, and since OSU doesn't really utilize the TE much, they'll just have to play well and not make mistakes.
Secondary: Ahh yes, the true strength of this defense. Perhaps the best secondary in the nation. Lots of playmakers. Reggie Nelson deserves the Thorpe Award this year for his outstanding play. The guy is just around the ball on every play. He's great in the running game and better in the passing game. Ryan Smith brings a lot of experience and playmaking abilities as well. One of the best matchups in this game is this secondary vs. Ohio State's receiving corps. Playmakers vs. Playmakers.
Overall: One of the best defenses in the country. Lots of speed, lots of experience, lots of patience and playmaking ability. Without a doubt the best defense this Ohio State team has faced. But this is also the best offense UF has played.
Oh boy, this is a LANDSLIDE victory for Ohio State. Florida has one of the worst kicking games I've ever seen. Ohio State, while not great, is better than what some Buckeye fans thought it would be going into the season. Don't be surprised to see Urban Meyer going for it on 4th downs just because of his kicker. Good for OSU; bad for Florida. OSU also has Ted Ginn to return punts, so watch out for that.
Ohio State has the edge here, barely. Jim Tressel has won a championship and year in and year out has this Ohio State team contending for a title. He gameplans better than anyone. I think when it's all said and done, Urban Meyer will be the better coach though. This is the third team he's turned into a powerhouse after only 2 years, which is simply a remarkable feat. I like his mad scientist approach to his offense, and I know Ohio State will have their hands full. It's up to Tressel to coach his guys up right, and I fully expect that. One knock against Meyer: penalties. And lots of 'em.
I suppose Florida has a chip on their shoulder since a lot of people think they don't deserve to be here. They're a big underdog, and won a lot of games by a close margin. One can compare this to the OSU/Miami Fiesta Bowl in early 2003. I think Jim Tressel is a far better gameday coach than Larry Coker though, so I don't expect OSU to fall in that trap. If Florida wins this game, it won't be because OSU wasn't prepared.
So who wins this game?
This is a tough call. I know all the experts think OSU wins this game pretty easily, and I guess that's a possibility, but I just don't see it happening. Urban Meyer's team is prepared and plays better in big games than in smaller games, so just because this Gators team may have struggled with Vanderbilt or Kentucky, I see their victories over LSU, Tennessee, Arkansas, etc, as proof that they will be more than ready to face this Buckeyes team. 5 weeks is a long time to get a decent gameplan for both of these teams. Bottomline: Florida is just WAY too talented in all phases and too well coached to be dominated by ANYone. Now, can they beat Ohio State? Well, it won't be easy. Chris Leak has to play much better than usual, and Tim Tebow has to be used right. I believe Urban Meyer's reluctance to use the freshman in the Auburn game cost them. In the end though, it's hard for me to imagine Florida playing a perfect game on offense, both with turnovers and penalties. Troy Smith and Ohio State's offense will wind up taking advantage of these mistakes, and I see an Ohio State win.
Ohio State - 20
Florida - 13
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