The college football season finally comes to an end tonight at the Superdome in New Orleans' when No. 1 Ohio State and No. 2 LSU meet in the BCS Championship. After a topsy-turvy season in the rankings, the debate will carry on for years to come whether the Buckeyes or Tigers should even be in this game. But the fact remains that only LSU and Ohio State can take home the trophy.
This year’s BCS Championship game between Ohio State and LSU has been discussed ad nauseam, so I’ll just get right down to the factors I think are the key influencers of line value.
Motivation and mindset, the great unquantifiable but always present factor for any game, looms big on the side of Ohio State. “Hunger,” as it is often referred to, is always a key factor in football when it can be reasonably accurately identified. Last year, of course, Ohio State was on the clear wrong side of it, playing the role of complacent prematurely-crowned champion to Florida’s disputed and disrespected role as the big underdog challenger, and of course, the Buckeyes lost in a blowout, 42-14.
This year, however, Ohio State is in an opposite role, now in the position of deposed sham of a titan, playing with something to prove despite being ranked number one in the nation.
Ohio State is comprised of a top-level defense combined with a capable, and probably somewhat underrated, but relatively unspectacular, offense. But their edge in this game will come from their focus and determination. The Buckeyes have been all business since they got the championship game assignment, and rankings and analysis and accolades (or lack thereof) have not gotten any notice from them after last year’s debacle. Ohio State means to win, and save some face.
The problem for Ohio State is that LSU’s edge in this game is predicated on pure talent. There are many teams that feel they are number one in the country, and deserving of a national title shot, and while that may be true, there is no denying that when healthy, LSU is up there with the absolute best in the country.
LSU has a defense that in my mind is as good as Ohio State’s, when healthy, and their offense is clearly explosive, dynamic, and deep. The Tigers did have some injury problems throughout the year, but in the early going, when they were at full strength, they were absolutely dominant. LSU opened the season with a 45-0 road win over quality Mississippi State, and followed that with a 48-7 home win over Top 10 Virginia Tech. Repeatedly dominating teams like that is remarkable, and LSU is likely to play closer to that level in this game having had a month to rest and recuperate. The Tigers have classic SEC-style “speed,” and they outsize the Buckeyes in certain key ways as well.
As a further bonus to LSU, the game will be played at the Superdome in New Orleans. Aside from the possible home-field Louisiana edge, LSU is better suited to playing in a dome than Ohio State, which is more tailored to rugged outdoor cold-weather games.
Much has been made of Ohio State’s 0-8 record against SEC teams in bowl games. And according to the line histories on SBRlines.com, there was a lot of market uncertainty early on regarding this line until it settled at LSU -3½.
That extra half-point looms very large in this game, as it could easily go down to the wire, being settled by a field goal. Still, my feeling is a lean towards LSU, despite giving up a field goal+. I think there is a significant talent discrepancy that will make itself shown as the game wears on, which could in fact curdle Ohio State’s “let’s prove ourselves” mental edge. LSU is not taking this game lightly either, as their selection for this game was also disputed.
I’ll be betting this game very modestly, but my pick is LSU -3½.